Associated Press, April 27, 2001
U.S. envoy urges Montenegro to remain in Yugoslavia
By ALEN MLATISUMA, Associated Press Writer
PODGORICA, Yugoslavia (AP) --
A top U.S. envoy urged pro-independence Montenegrin leaders Friday to negotiate with Serbia to reshape their joint Yugoslav state.
The visit by the U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia, William Montgomery, comes just days after pro-independence forces won a narrow victory over a group striving for Montenegro's continued union with Serbia in the Yugoslav federation.
The margin of victory fell far short of the overwhelming mandate pro-independence forces had hoped for in order to show that people wanted to break from Yugoslavia. Montgomery urged the two sides to talk.
"The position of the U.S. remains the same as it has been," Montgomery said. "Our preference is a democratic Montenegro within democratic and reformed Yugoslavia."
Montgomery met with the leader of the pro-independence forces, President Milo Djukanovic, and with the leader of the pro-Yugoslav faction, Predrag Bulatovic.
Bulatovic said he asked Montgomery for U.S. help in exerting pressure on Montenegro's pro-independence faction not to take "unilateral" steps toward secession.
"We are fully open to the agreements on the reshaping of the current (Yugoslav) federation," Bulatovic said.
Falling short of a majority in the Montenegrin parliament, Djukanovic's forces will be forced to seek a coalition with the Liberal party to form a new government. The Liberals are a hard-line pro-independence group.
Miodrag Zivkovic, a leader of the Liberals, said his party was willing to compromise on the date for holding an independence referendum. He said the proposed vote could be held six months after the legislature is in place -- instead of 45 days after the new parliament is constituted.
But Zivkovic demanded key ministerial posts, such as police and judiciary, to enter into a coalition with Djukanovic's group. Talks on forming the new coalition are expected to start Friday, said Djukanovic's top adviser, Miodrag Vukovic.
"The referendum is inevitable, but its date does not depend only on the will of the pro-independence forces," Vukovic said, indicating that the referendum date also depends on international pressure.
Both Serbia and Yugoslav federal authorities have said they would not use force to prevent Montenegro's secession.
In another push to keep the country together, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica on Thursday urged lawmakers to consider changing the Yugoslav constitution -- adopted during the rule of his predecessor, Slobodan Milosevic -- in order to maintain the two-republic federation.
In a speech televised on the eve of Yugoslavia's Constitution Day, Kostunica urged political figures in Serbia and Montenegro to begin "mature and responsible" talks on necessary changes in the constitution.
Montenegro has decided to ignore the holiday.
Djukanovic held a a brief, unannounced meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on Thursday in Belgrade, Djindjic's party aide, Boris Tadic, said Friday.
Tadic said that during the 20-minute meeting, Djukanovic insisted on Montenegro's independence, while Djindjic stressed that Serbia has "no intention to be an arbiter in the relations within" the Yugoslav federation. Djindjic is considered politically much closer to Djukanovic than Kostunica.