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Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 05:51 GMT 06:51 UK
Analysis: The Montenegro conundrum
Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic (left) and Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica (right)
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic (left) resists overtures of Vojislav Kostunica (right)
By the BBC's south-east Europe analyst Gabriel Partos

Vojislav Kostunica has been recognised around the world as the democratically-elected president of Yugoslavia.

But worldwide recognition has not impressed the government of Montenegro - the tiny republic that, along with Serbia, forms the Yugoslav federation.

For more than two years, Montenegro has ignored federal Yugoslav institutions on the grounds that they were being manipulated by the former president, Slobodan Milosevic.

'Not our leader'

That is why Montenegro, as a republic, boycotted last month's Yugoslav presidential and parliamentary elections, held after Mr Milosevic had forced through constitutional changes without consulting Montenegro.

Following Mr Kostunica's success in those elections, Montenegro has come to accept him as the leader of Serbia's democratic forces.

But it does not accept him as president of Yugoslavia, on the grounds that the voting was contaminated by the constitutional amendments.

"Mr Kostunica enjoys our political support in moving the democratic process in Serbia, but we cannot accept the legal aspect of his presidency," says Montenegro's deputy Prime Minister, Dragisa Burzan.

"He cannot extend his rule over Montenegro, legally speaking. But we will turn a blind eye to many things legally to give him some space in Belgrade to start those processes."

In practice that approach means that Montenegro will not rejoin federal institutions until Serbia and Montenegro have redefined their relationship within the federation on the basis of consent.

All this is an embarrassment for Mr Kostunica who said after he assumed his post that his priority was to improve relations with Montenegro.

He has made progress already, to the extent that talks at the highest level have been taking place. But in terms of substance, no visible progress has been made.

That may suit Montenegro's leadership which over the past couple of years has got used to running Montenegro without interference from Belgrade.

Given the determination of Montenegro's leadership to go its own way - whether formally within or outside the Yugoslav federation - there's little Mr Kostunica or any democratically-inclined politician can do to reverse the process.

That has prompted Mr Kostunica to say that Montenegro can go independent if its people vote for it.

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See also:

16 Oct 00 | Europe
Deal breaks Serbia deadlock
14 Oct 00 | Correspondent
March to revolution
15 Oct 00 | Europe
Crown Prince arrives in Serbia
11 Oct 00 | Europe
Kostunica's limited powers
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