Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Montenegro Opposition Withdraws Cooperation

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia -- Montenegro was a step closer to civil strife Friday after its pro-Serbian party walked out of talks with the Western-oriented government aimed at preserving the peace.

The Socialist People's Party, or SNP, of Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic said Thursday that it would no longer take part in talks with the government of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, initiated under a "resolution of civil peace."

The SNP quit hours after NATO hit Yugoslav army targets in the republic, Serbia's small partner in the Yugoslav federation, in the heaviest bombardment since the air war began.

The military airport was badly damaged and the first Montenegrin civilian was killed.

The republic's two rival power blocs in parliament agreed, as soon as NATO began bombing Yugoslavia on March 24, to force its President Slobodan Milosevic to make peace in Kosovo, to hold daily talks to stave off confrontation in tense, divided Montenegro.

"We can no longer take part in such consultations in this manner," the independent daily Vijesti quoted SNP deputy leader Predrag Bulatovic as saying before he stormed out of Thursday's meeting, accusing the government of abandoning Yugoslavia.

Montenegro, which stretches from the Adriatic Sea to towering snow-capped mountains and has just 640,000 people, is split down the middle between Milosevic's friends and foes.

The republic's government is ignoring Belgrade's declaration of martial law, urging young men to shun the army's call-up, trying to check the army's power and giving shelter to some 65,000 ethnic Albanians driven from Kosovo by Serbian forces.

Milosevic is enraged and his supporters in Montenegro, which is culturally bonded to Serbia, say Djukanovic is a traitor.

The SNP, whose leader only narrowly lost 1997 presidential elections to the reformist Djukanovic, accused the governing coalition parties of breaking the accord first.

"They are obstructing the Yugoslav army and treating Montenegro like a separate state," local media quoted Predrag Bulatovic as saying.

The SNP has branded Djukanovic a "vulgar egoist" for saving his republic from the brunt of NATO bombing by his pro-Western stance while Serbia burns.

Djukanovic has branded Milosevic's policy toward NATO "suicidal," and repeatedly urged him to compromise with the West.He also said Montenegrins are ready to defend their republic from any provocations by the Yugoslav army.

Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Perovic said Thursday that he fears Milosevic might use the growing unrest in Montenegro to foment civil war. Bulatovic said his opposition party would respect the spirit of the peace accord and that parliament should find "other means" to preserve the peace.

To reward Djukanovic, NATO had largely avoided attacking military targets in Montenegro f until this week.

In waves of heavy bombing its warplanes hit a military airport in the capital, Podgorica, destroying planes and fuel stores but also killing the first Montenegrin civilian.

Bomb splinters killed Paska Juncaj, a local 61-year-old Catholic Albanian woman, near her village home on Wednesday. She was to be buried later Friday.