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Yugoslav Troops Accused of Stealing

May 19, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Yugoslav troops loyal to President Slobodan Milosevic are hijacking Western humanitarian aid destined for Albanian refugees in Montenegro, a diplomat from the pro-Western republic said Wednesday.

``The humanitarian and security situation in the Republic of Montenegro is seriously deteriorating, and the Yugoslav army is increasing its pressure on Montenegro,″ said Zorica Maric, the state’s envoy to Washington.

The tiny republic is the junior partner in the Yugoslav federation, which is dominated by Serbia. Montenegrin leaders have been sharply critical of Milosevic, blaming him for provoking the current war against NATO. While opposing NATO bombing, they have repeatedly called for his ouster and threatened to sever ties with Belgrade if Milosevic remains in power.

Last week, the republic’s president, Milo Djukanovic, toured West European capitals in an effort to obtain increased humanitarian aid for the 70,000 Kosovo Albanians who sought shelter in Montenegro.

The British Foreign Office has said it has evidence that Milosevic ``is preparing a coup against Montenegro″ to replace Djukanovic. The U.S. State Department has warned that any attempt by the army to overthrow Djukanovic’s government would ``escalate the conflict with NATO.″

Maric said that relief convoys arriving from neighboring Croatia are being stopped by Yugoslav troops at the nearby military base of Kumbor, and the supplies and trucks confiscated.

``All vehicles are stopped and searched, including trucks with humanitarian aid,″ Maric said. ``Humanitarian trucks are redirected to the Kumbor military barracks.″

Maric heads the Montenegrin government’s trade mission to Washington, which acts as an informal embassy for the republic. Yugoslavia broke diplomatic relations with Washington soon after NATO bombings began, and the country’s embassy was closed in April.

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