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Montenegro Needs Aid for Refugees

March 29, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Yugoslavia’s pro-Western state of Montenegro is being overwhelmed by a huge influx of Albanian refugees, even as NATO jets continue to pound the little republic, Montenegro’s representative in Washington warned Monday.

``During the past day alone, some 15,000 people, mostly women and children, have arrived in Rozaje,″ said Zorica Maric, the state’s trade representative in the United States.

Rozaje is a town in the northeast of the republic, on the border with Kosovo. Although Montenegro is part of Yugoslavia, the state’s pro-Western government has refused to accept a state of war proclaimed by the federal government. It has been providing shelter and assistance for displaced Albanians fleeing Kosovo.

Maric said 17,500 refugees had been registered since Saturday. ``We expect that about 20 percent more have arrived without officially registering with the authorities,″ she said.

Montenegro, with a population of 600,000, already has received the highest number of Albanian refugees in proportion to its population. Refugees are also streaming into Albania and Macedonia.

A six-mile column of cars and people was moving Monday toward the border from the Kosovo town of Pec, Maric said. Serb police and paramilitary gangs were reported to be conducting a wholesale removal of the ethnic Albanian population from the area around Pec.

``We are warning that soon all of Montenegro may become a humanitarian basket case,″ Maric said.

She said the government in Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital, had appealed to the international community for urgent humanitarian assistance.

Montenegro has severely criticized Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic for instigating the crackdown in Kosovo.

Although Montenegrin authorities have vowed to remain neutral and not to allow their soil to be used for attacks on NATO, the Western alliance has repeatedly bombed Yugoslav army bases in the state.

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