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Saturday, June 26, 1999 Published at 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK

World: Europe

Coup fears as Montenegro demobilises

Many Montenegrins remain loyal to Serbia

By Nick Thorpe in Podgorica

The Yugoslav army has begun dismantling road blocks in Montenegro, and demobilising reserve forces called up there three months ago on the eve of the Nato air strikes - but there are fears that the reservists loyal to Belgrade will continue to threaten the small republic's stability.

Kosovo: Special Report
According to a front-page report in the Saturday edition of one local newspaper, Vijesti, 15,000 army reservists will be demobilised this weekend but 3,000 others will remain.

The Montenegrin Government has long warned that the reservists may be plotting a coup, rather than protecting the region from Nato aggression.

Now Montenegrin officials believe that the former reservists could become a rival pro-Milosevic police force, simply by donning new insignia on their camouflage uniforms. This would create a new source of tension between the Montenegrin and Yugoslav authorities.

Draft dodgers face prosecution

[ image: Montenegro's own police are loyal to the pro-Western government]
Montenegro's own police are loyal to the pro-Western government
Another source of frustration for the Montenegrin government is the attempt by military courts to prosecute up to 15,000 draft dodgers, about half the total number who were called up to serve in the Yugoslav army in Montenegro.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Socialist People's Party, which is sympathetic to Belgrade, has called on the Montenegrin Interior Ministry to reduce its own police force.

A spokesman for the party said that even the pre-war strength was far too high for a small country.

The Montenegrin Government has carefully built up and trained its police and special police troops as a defence against what it says is constant interference in its affairs from Belgrade.

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