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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Montenegro Says Serbia Is Plotting Overthrow




PODGORICA, Montenegro -- Montenegro's President Milo Djukanovic accused Belgrade on Thursday of planning a military coup after the Yugoslav army effectively seized control of the small republic's border crossings.


Soldiers set up heavily armed checkpoints on all main roads into Montenegro, blocking imports of raw materials, confiscating much-needed humanitarian aid and preventing Westerners from entering.


"The regime in Belgrade wants to install the Yugoslav army as a dictatorship power in Montenegro," Djukanovic said in an interview with the local Montena-fax news agency.


"Those responsible for this are federal officials who are causing us great economic damage with this stupid blockade and whose sole obsession is waging war," the president added.


Montenegro is Serbia's last surviving partner in the Yugoslav federation. It has refused to recognize Belgrade's declaration of a state of war during the Kosovo crisis, plunging already tense relations between the two republics to new lows.


Government ministers have regularly accused Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of plotting to use his military to seize power here and rid himself of Djukanovic, a one-time ally and now a political foe.


Soldiers on Wednesday dug in heavy machine-gun positions close to Montenegro's lone crossing into Croatia and took humanitarian aid from an Italian charity. Two truckloads of French medical and food aid were confiscated last weekend.


The army also turned back 12 trucks bringing supplies for Montenegro's large aluminum plant - one of the few industries still functioning in the republic.


"The problem is that the army has put its faith in the [Belgrade] regime. Even blind people can see that that regime is coming to an end," Djukanovic was quoted as saying.


Yugoslavia's 2nd Army has an estimated 25,000 troops stationed around Montenegro, while the reformist government says it has some 12,000 armed police ready to fight any coup attempt.


Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan traveled to the northwestern town of Herceg Novi on Thursday to try to negotiate with army officers about the removal of the Croatian roadblock.


Meanwhile, two army checkpoints were in place at the southern Albanian border and roadblocks were also operating at Bosnian and Serbian crossings, government officials said.


Local men who are old enough to serve in the army and who wish to leave Montenegro must get written permission from Belgrade, the army said.


Westerners wanting to come to Montenegro, which has an open-border policy, have been told by the army that they must have visas valid for the whole of Yugoslavia.


Several hundred Yugoslav army reservists deserted Kosovo and returned to their hometowns in Serbia, demanding an end to the war, a Montenegrin newspaper reported Thursday.


A group of some 400 reservists arrived Wednesday in Aleksandrovac, their hometown, saying they would not go back to the front, the independent daily Vijesti said.


They turned down an offer made to them by the commander of the Third Corps of the Yugoslav army, Nebojsa Pavkovic, to treat their absence from Kosovo as a short vacation, telling the general they waned the war to end.