Đukanović makes splash at UN
President Milo Đukanović made a splash in New York last week, attending the opening session of the United Nations' Millennium Summit as a guest of the United States and holding talks with a series of high profile world leaders.
Đukanović kicked off his New York visit with meetings with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Foreign Minister Joshka Fisher.
"Great Britain and its allies will closely watch the situation in Montenegro as well as any new moves by the Belgrade regime. We will continue to support Montenegro and we will consider other options if the Belgrade regime tries to endanger Montenegro's democratic project," Blair was quoted as having said by the daily Vijesti.
Following his meeting with the German foreign minister, Đukanović explained that he had spoken with both men about the security and political climates in Montenegro, noting that he had "emphasized that Montenegro had to boycott the federal elections because of the constitutional and legal violence of Milošević's regime."
Meanwhile, Đukanović's host, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, said the President and his supporters were "taking a lot of risks for democracy in Montenegro." Speaking with reporters after the two shared a breakfast meeting, the secretary of state sent a strongly worded message to Milošević to "keep his hands off Montenegro," as Podgorica media called it.
The United States, Albright said, is keeping a close eye on the situation in Serbia and Montenegro despite the ongoing US presidential election campaign, warning Milošević against the impression that President Bill Clinton is a lame duck waiting to close-out his days in office.
"Milošević and other people should not get it into their heads that the United States is out of business during the election period," she told reporters. "We are very much at work, harder than ever, paying attention everywhere."
Reporters pressed Albright on motives behind a joint Croatian – American naval exercise off the coast of Montenegro, but the secretary of state would only say the planned beach assault training was taking place on Croatian territory as part of NATO's Partnership for Peace programme.
In the most high-profile warning to Milošević to-date, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott made clear Friday that the situation in Serbia and Montenegro had been an important topic in a bilateral meeting between Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Clinton is said to have raised concerns about the scheduled 24 September Yugoslav presidential elections and the possibility of Serbian efforts to destabilize Montenegro.
Đukanović, meanwhile, also met with French President Jacques Chirac in New York, whose EU-Western Balkans summit meeting in Zagreb is planned for November.
Tourism: a solution for Prevlaka?
Relations between Croatia and Montenegro have been warming for some months, following Croatian President Stipe Mesić's overtures to Đukanović in late spring and the latter's unprecedented apology to Croatia for Montenegro's part in Yugoslavian sieges of certain Croatian towns including Vukovar and Dubrovnik.
Still, few at the time would have predicted a joint tourist venture between the two nations.
Before Mesić's departure for New York last week, Prime Minister Filip Vujanović met the Croatian President in Cavtat, where the two discussed plans for a final resolution of the status of the Prevlaka Peninsula, over which both nations claim some form of sovereignty. The peninsula is, meanwhile, administered by the United Nations.
The two men, the daily Vijesti reported, discussed an idea to create a "tourist haven" on the strip of land adjoining the two nations. Both Đukanović and Mesić are both said to have advanced the idea while in New York and, while the measure was received warmly in the media in both nations, each President has now appointed expert groups to hash-out the idea.
The two Presidents are reportedly interested in soliciting international investment opportunities for the project.
Belgrade: Montenegro obstructing elections
Officials in Belgrade said last Thursday that the Montenegrin government was blocking election preparations throughout the republic in violation of its pledge to refrain from interfering despite an election boycott.
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"There is an organised and systematic pressure on Montenegrin citizens aimed at denying them the constitutional right to directly elect Yugoslavia's federal bodies," Tanjug quoted a Serbian spokesman as saying.
"The federal government has passed a decree to compensate all those who are dismissed for participating in elections and lose income," the statement said.
The story was accompanied by a Tanjug editorial saying Đukanović's promise of cooperation in the elections was merely a ploy.
"Milo Đukanović is preparing. in advance, excuses and accusations against others in case of some incident provoked by himself or by some of his supporters."
Deputy Prime Minister Dragiša Buržan called the move "a transparent marketing trick" by the Milošević regime, adding that, "instead of dealing with serious affairs they are dealing with petty, small marketing tricks that are so transparent the citizens will certainly not fall for them," according to a Blic report.
Kostunica to Montenegro?
At press time, united opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica was scheduled to arrive in Podgorica for a weekend visit that, according to Blic would include a meeting with Montenegrin government and opposition officials as well as Bishop Amfilohije and a visit to the Ostrog monastery.
Justice minister turning off the lights on VJ?
Saying "the Yugoslav Army (VJ) has to pay its electricity bills, just like every other resident and citizen of Montenegro," Minister of the Economy Vojin Đukanović he was prepared to cut off electricity and water supplies to VJ units stationed in Montenegro.
"[VJ Chief of General Staff Nebojša] Pavković should mind his own business, not somebody else's. The state pays the Yugoslav Army and the state must pay for its expenses. If the state cannot pay for its expenses, it should reduce the Army," Đukanović said.
Pavković called the threat "unacceptable," saying, "the Yugoslav Army in Montenegro will continue to perform its tasks according to the constitution."
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