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Republic Assails Milosevic's Policies

Balkans: Montenegro's leader is confident he can quash any coup bid by the Yugoslav regime.


PODGORICA, Yugoslavia — Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic blasted the policies of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at a news conference Friday but expressed confidence that his own reformist government can survive despite coup fears here.

"As long as Mr. Milosevic is in power--and I hope it will not be much longer--there will be attempts to suppress democracy in Montenegro, which he finds a threat to his regime," the pro-Western Djukanovic said.

Montenegro, the much smaller partner to Serbia in Yugoslavia, has tried under Djukanovic's leadership to avoid being drawn into Milosevic's conflict with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Yugoslav 2nd Army, however, is based here, and NATO has made a limited number of airstrikes against military targets in Montenegro, most recently on Thursday night.

Djukanovic warned Friday that the conflict "is little by little getting out of control."

"Today there is an objective danger that the Kosovo fire and blood could engulf not only Yugoslavia but also the entire region," he said.

In recent weeks, supporters of Djukanovic have expressed fears that the Yugoslav army and backers of Milosevic might cooperate in a coup attempt here.

But Djukanovic said Friday that he believed there would be no coup. He predicted that the 2nd Army would not allow itself "to be manipulated and abused for achieving someone's personal interests," and added that the Montenegrin government is determined to quash any takeover attempt.

Government officials have said that Montenegrin police, which are seen as loyal to Djukanovic, would resist a coup even if launched by the Yugoslav army. Their resistance would mean that a coup would not be quick and clean and would probably trigger a civil war, which government supporters say even Milosevic may not want to face while under attack from NATO.

Thursday's airstrikes--which came after eight days of quiet over Montenegro despite heavy NATO bombing of Serbia--hit the area of Podgorica's airport and another military airfield outside the Montenegrin capital, sending up plumes of black smoke.

NATO bombs also hit several other sites in the Podgorica area and a hillside above the Adriatic port of Bar, according to Montenegrin media.

Djukanovic's government has repeatedly urged NATO not to strike targets in Montenegro, stressing that such bombing adds to the political pressures it faces. NATO has appeared to take that into consideration in limiting its strikes here.

Supporters of the government suspect that the 2nd Army--which is under the command of Gen. Milorad Obradovic, seen as a hard-line Milosevic ally--has on several occasions intentionally tried to draw NATO airstrikes because of the political damage such bombing can do to Djukanovic.

In one such incident, navy ships in Bar fired antiaircraft guns Monday at NATO planes passing far overhead on bombing missions in Serbia, according to a statement from Djukanovic's office.

"Military experts assert that the [naval antiaircraft] gun's range is twice less than the NATO planes' flying altitude," the statement said. "The employees of the Port of Bar are bitter because this is pure provocation with a purpose to incite NATO attacks and cause great property damage to the Port of Bar."

The government's stance, while credited by supporters with saving Montenegro from the destruction now being visited on Serbia, is seen by many Milosevic backers as a failure to support the war effort.

At several pro-Milosevic rallies in Podgorica this week, accusations of treason have been directed against the Montenegrin government and its supporters. At one such rally Wednesday in front of the parliament building, a crowd of about 200 screamed, "Come out, you traitors!" and chanted, "Treason! Treason! Treason!"

But Djukanovic rejected those accusations Friday. "Of course Montenegro has not betrayed and cannot betray either Kosovo, or the brotherly Serbia, or Yugoslavia," Djukanovic said. "It just will not adhere to a disastrous policy."

Djukanovic blasted Milosevic's actions of recent years for reducing Serbia and Montenegro to extreme poverty, for calling into question "the continuance of Kosovo within our country" and for sending Yugoslavia into "the 21st century through atomic shelters and under a rain of NATO aircraft projectiles."

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