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Montenegro: No Independence Yet

July 8, 2000

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Montenegro’s president on Saturday restrained lawmakers bent on seeking independence from Yugoslavia, suppressing a challenge to Slobodan Milosevic and signaling that the tiny republic will not be goaded into a new war.

Montenegro’s leader, Milo Djukanovic, demonstrated that he controls independence forces in the smaller of Yugoslavia’s republics, halting an escalation of tensions that followed constitutional amendments pushed by the government of Milosevic, the Yugoslav president.

After an all-night debate, Montengrin lawmakers decided to ignore the constitutional changes, but declined to go further and call for a referendum on splitting with the Yugoslav federation. Other republics of former Yugoslavia that have made that move found themselves at war with Serbia, Yugoslavia’s dominant republic.

Unlike those other republics, however, Montenegro under Djukanovic has already moved away from Belgrade without violence, winning many of the trappings of a sovereign state, such as a separate currency, police force and virtual control of the nation’s borders.

Later Saturday, Serbia’s information minister and Milosevic ally, Aleksandar Vucic, threatened that the central government in Belgrade will ``take measures to protect (Yugoslavia’s) constitutional order″ after Montenegro’s parliament rejected the amendments made in the federal capital, Belgrade.

Vucic was not specific, but said he was ``convinced that this will happen.″ He also blasted Montenegro’s defiance as ``legal nonsense″

With much to lose _ and little to immediately gain by such a declaration _ Djukanovic stopped radical pro-independence lawmakers from provoking Milosevic.

Nebojsa Medojevic, an independent analyst based in Montenegro, described the parliament’s reaction as ``purely defensive″ and described it as being part of a ``Gandhi-like struggle″ against Milosevic.

``Milosevic is raising the stakes,″ Medojevic said.

Djukanovic, for his part, may use higher tensions to continue to blame Milosevic for the economic ills in Montenegro, Medojevic said.

Montenegro’s prime minister Filip Vujanovic said he was pleased that Montenegro ``has protected itself from the destructive federal authorities.″

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