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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK

World: Europe

Montenegrin leader slams Belgrade: Interview

Pro-independence activists in Montenegro are getting more vocal

The Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro, Dragisa Burzan, spoke to BBC News Online's Fergus Nicoll in Podgorica about tensions with Belgrade, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and moves towards independence. Here are the highlights:
(Q) An MP here recently described the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a "decaying artefact". Do you agree ?

(Burzan) Yugoslavia has been an artificial state, politically a Milosevic state, not the democratic choice of the people of Serbia or Montenegro.

I would say now things are working in the way of fundamental change, and I hope to see both countries become sovereign states.

Do you mean within an umbrella Yugoslavia, or clearly away from Serbia ?

I think we should seek full independence, we should seek membership of the United Nations, even seek the chair there.

"The Yugoslav army has posed horrible problems for us"
Montenegro is an ancient state - until 1918, we had our own state.

That state was formally re-etablished in 1943, but up to now we haven't seen the real re-establishment of the state because we have always been politically dominated by Belgrade.

The last ten years of domination by Belgrade have been quite devastating for us.

I think that the prevailing mood now is that people want to see their interests defended in the right way.

There is, of course, some disagreement on this within the ruling coalition.

Does your goverment have the courage to break away - to antagonise Mr Milosevic and deny Serbia access to the sea ?

As far as courage is concerned, I think this government has had the courage to stand fully against Milosevic.

[ image: Dragisa Burzan:
Dragisa Burzan: "Montenegro an ancient state"
And, after a consensus is reached among people in the government, of course it will have the courage to stand up to the goal agreed.

For the last three months, we have been on the verge of civil war here, on the verge of direct military clashes with Belgrade.

So tensions are very high.

But now I think the power of Milosevic is leaking out.

How much of a problem has the Yugoslav army been here ?

They have posed horrible problems.

"Yugoslavia has been an artificial state, not a democratic choice"
They stopped normal traffic, they stopped the influx of humanitarian aid, they did a lot of damage to us.

But they have cut back their presence at some check-points, so we hope that will diminish tension and help ensure a free approach to our country.

Can I ask you about President Djukanovic - he is only 37 years old, but he is a charismatic figure, very much on the international scene these days. But is he being used by the international community or is he a player in his own right ?

Of course he is a real player on his own.

And of course it is a quite genuine movement here, and it is led widely speaking by President Djukanovic, who is now in a phase of assessing the situation very rationally.

I would add simply that means going for a referendum for an independent state.

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