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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK

World: Europe

Montenegro denounces 'stupid' army blockade

Yugoslav Army personnel block key routes in Montenegro

President Djukanovic of Montenegro has lashed out at the Yugoslav army, which has resumed control over key road-blocks and border-crossings.

Kosovo: Special Report
"Those who ordered the tanks out of their barracks should be well aware of the stupidity of their actions," said Mr Djukanovic.

He said the Yugoslav army - known as the VJ in Serbo-Croat - were "again trying to discipline" Montenegro.

[ image: Dragisa Burzan:
Dragisa Burzan: "Domination by Belgrade has been devastating"
The issue of army road-blocks - especially at Kumbor, on the road to neighbouring Croatia - has inflamed public opinion.

The VJ, which is loyal to President Milosevic in Belgrade, has an estimated 30,000 troops deployed in Montenegro, Serbia's junior partner in the Yugoslav federation.

Thousands more special police - known as the MUP - are also stationed there.

Withdrawal reversed

Last week, following the formal lifting of the state of war, the VJ began a gradual withdrawal from Montenegro including the dismantling of the Kumbor check-point.

[ image: Mr Djukanovic:
Mr Djukanovic: "They will realise the stupidity of their actions"
Now, however, roads leading to Albania and Bosnia-Hercegovina as well as Croatia have all been blocked.

Soldiers at the road-blocks have prevented vehicles carrying United Nations humanitarian aid from reaching refugee camps in the country.

They have also harassed civilians, and stolen equipment from journalists.

Growing calls for independence

The renewed army crackdown follows growing calls for an end to federal links with Serbia and the restoration of Montenegro's historical independence.

[ image: Montenegro's elite police: Loyal to the government]
Montenegro's elite police: Loyal to the government
Government advisers have been working on a document outlining a new constitutional make-up for Yugoslavia which is nearly complete.

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 has approved it.

Referendum threat

If the Serbian authorities do reject the document, the Montenegrin Government plans to hold a referendum on full independence.

[ image:  ]
But some senior figures in Podgorica are calling for swifter movement.

The deputy Prime Minister, Dragisa Burzan, says his country should seek full independence and membership of the UN.

"The last ten years of domination by Belgrade have been quite devastating for us, " Mr Burzan said in a BBC interview.

Looking to Europe

For the past few years, President 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 Montenegro's Adriatic coast.

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