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Friday, June 25, 1999 Published at 06:40 GMT 07:40 UK

World: Europe

Montenegro calls for troops to leave

Bill Clinton thanks Milo Djukanovic for staying out of the Kosovo war

The authorities in Montenegro are delighted that their country - as Yugoslavia's junior partner - is no longer in a state of war.

Kosovo: Special Report
But politicians in the capital, Podgorica, are demanding that Belgrade swiftly re-deploy large numbers of Yugoslav soldiers and military police still in Montenegro.

Under the state of war, the number of Yugoslav army personnel in Montenegro has been estimated at five times peace-time levels.

Nick Thorpe: "Problems between Serbia and Montenegro won't disappear overnight"
The republic's pro-Western President, Milo Djukanovic, has presented his own proposals for the "modernisation" of the army, as part of a radical reorganisation of the federal government.

Addressing Montenegrin state prosecutors on Thursday, Mr Djukanovic said the army had to be "professionalised and reduced considerably".

[ image: President Djukanovic: Political and military reform]
President Djukanovic: Political and military reform
" The future of the region requires demilitarisation," he said.

"The army should be significantly modernised," he added, "so we do not have to shudder every time the army decides to move its motley collection of obsolete junk."

The Montenegrin Government hopes the proposed reforms - which also affect the judiciary, the political system and the economy - will lead to a new relationship between Podgorica and Belgrade.

[ image:  ]
Montenegro has already threatened to call a referendum on full independence, if major reforms within the Yugoslav power-structure do not take place.

There is also growing popular support for an end to federal links with Serbia and the restoration of Montenegro's historical independence.

Yugoslavia at least in name

A formal document on a new constitutional make-up for Yugoslavia has nearly been completed by Montenegrin officials.

Under the draft arrangement - which has yet to be agreed by Belgrade - Yugoslavia would survive, at least in name.

But there would be radical changes in the relationship between the two federal partners:

  • Montenegro to enjoy much greater political and economic autonomy
  • Yugoslav Army to be split between partners according to nationality
  • Possible separate currency for Montenegro

The final document will only be handed over to Belgrade once the Montenegrin parliament votes to approve it.

[ image: Prime Minister Vujanovic:
Prime Minister Vujanovic: "Agree or we'll go our own way"
If the Serb authorities do reject the document, the Montenegrin Government plans to hold a referendum on full independence.

"Milosevic's regime has strengthened the mood of our citizens for separation, for their own independent state", said the Prime Minister, Filip Vujanovic, in mid-June.

Risks of looking to Europe

For the past few years, Milo Djukanovic has been eager to integrate Montenegro with the rest of Europe.

He has sought closer links with the European Union, looking for foreign investment and tourists to visit his country's Adriatic coast.

But there are dangers in this westward-looking policy.

[ image: Elite police force: Loyal to the pro-western government]
Elite police force: Loyal to the pro-western government
Earlier this year, Belgrade demanded that the Montenegrin police be placed under the command of the Yugoslav army.

This was seen as an attempt by Mr Milosevic to undermine the Djukanovic administration by removing the reassurance of a loyal - and large - police force.

The Montenegrin Government rejected the demand. Without the police, it was feared, an army take-over would be easy.

There are still threatening forces in Serbia.

The extreme Serb nationalist, Vojislav Seselj, has predicted a grim period ahead for Yugoslavia.

Mr Seselj - who advocated the arrest of opposition activists and the suppression of pro-Western forces - has predicted that Montenegro would split away in the event of a civil war.

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