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Sunday, May 23, 1999 Published at 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK


Montenegro president sees end to Kosovo crisis

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic says he expects an early political solution to the Kosovo crisis to emerge from the intense European and Russian diplomatic moves currently under way.

The political process, which had been on hold for some time, was now going in a positive direction, and "we can expect an end to the hostilities in the near future," Mr Djukanovic told Montenegrin television.

He said the legal status of the Republic of Montenegro in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) would have to be re-defined once a solution had been found, and that would mean a complete rethink of Yugoslavia's legal and constitutional system.

"The existing legal and constitutional framework of the FRY is open to manipulation to the detriment of Montenegro and to attempts - which have partly succeeded - by the Belgrade regime to undermine the equality and dignity of Montenegro in the Yugoslav state," Mr Djukanovic said.

It would be "extremely naive" not to accept that, and "we would be even more naive if we did nothing to correct the weaknesses of the legal and constitutional system".

The constitutional review would have to "offer Montenegro and its distinct state policy a broad enough framework, a broad enough autonomy for that policy to be pursued, and for the strategic national and state interests of Montenegro to be fully realized," Mr Djukanovic said, and that would mean Montenegro would no longer have to depend on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic or his successor.

"Serious legal and constitutional changes" were needed in the defence sector, which had shown "more than considerable weaknesses", Mr Djukanovic said.

"Mr Milosevic has not found it necessary to convene the Supreme Defence Council since October 1998 because it is perfectly convenient for him that he should command the army on his own," President Djukanovic said.

"It is not difficult to conclude that Milosevic has misused the army to such an extent and pushed it into so many unnecessary operations with tragic consequences, that it is evident even now that there will be no problems in identifying his personal responsibility for everything that has been done with the Yugoslav Army both in Kosovo and the whole of the FRY".

By inviting Montenegro to take part in the Balkans conference in Bonn next Thursday, the international community had "corrected the big historical mistake" made in 1918, when Montenegro was "submerged into Serbia and deprived of its statehood and its international identity because of manipulation and violence coming from the then Serbia," President Djukanovic said.

"I do not need to explain how difficult it is to correct such mistakes.

It is enough to say that it took 81 years for Montenegro to get its own chair at a conference on the Balkans and to be given an opportunity to represent its interests itself." Next Thursday's invitation was a crowning moment for Montenegro's efforts to "achieve serious international credibility".

Montenegro had been invited "primarily because the organizers believe that Montenegro will make its contribution to a sound regional policy and its future implementation," President Djukanovic said.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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