War In The Balkans: Milosevic is doomed to defeat, says Montenegro's president

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The Independent Online
THE LEADER of the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro argued yesterday that the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, has miscalculated badly and must accept his defeat in the Balkans.

Milo Djukanovic said: "He entered into a war with Nato, hoping it would last a couple of days and then they'd give up. It's not wise to show defiance against the whole world." Mr Djukanovic also claimed that his country's security is being "endangered by the Belgrade dictatorship".

In an interview with The Independent, President Djukanovic insisted: "Milosevic will have to accept the withdrawal of police and military forces from Kosovo. There must be an international military presence, under the auspices of the United Nations."

Mr Djukanovic is sceptical of the flurry of diplomatic headlines on Kosovo in recent days. "The talks aren't going anywhere. They're deadlocked because of Milosevic's refusal to accept an international military presence."

President Milosevic leads the Yugoslav federation of which Montenegro still forms a part. But Mr Djukanovic's reformist government is increasingly under threat from Belgrade.

"Milosevic has repeatedly tried to destabilise Montenegro. He has tried to overthrow the government. As long as he is on the political scene, he will continue trying to disrupt democracy wherever it may be. I don't expect Milosevic to give up."

Sitting amid the deep leather armchairs and antique, inlaid furniture that fill his office, Mr Djukanovic talked of his "personal security being endangered by the Belgrade dictator". The presidency building, on the main boulevard of the capital, Podgorica, is guarded around the clock by flak-jacketed police.

"Montenegro has embarked on a democratic process - and democratic processes always inspire dictators to destructive action," said Mr Djukanovic.

He said the Nato bombing campaign has "seemingly strengthened" Mr Milosevic, at least while the conflict continues. "For a short time, he's a winner. But his politics belong to the past."

He argued that the final break-up of the rump Yugoslav federation is inevitable, if - as seems increasingly likely - Mr Milosevic remains in power even after a settlement on Kosovo. "If our views on the future of the country between Serbia and Montenegro remain as different as they are today, a single country will no longer be feasible. Montenegrins will not sacrifice their future, their democracy, and aspirations."

Mr Djukanovic spelt out the implications of secession - including another possible war. Montenegrins, he said, are ready to fight: "Absolutely. Throughout their history, Montenegrins have had to defend their freedom. Defence of freedom today means the defence of our democracy."

This would be Mr Milosevic's fifth war in eight years. Each war that he has fought so far - in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and now Kosovo - has been more ruthless than the one before.

Mr Djukanovic said: "Milosevic has built all his power on the production of one conflict after another in this region, and on producing conflict with the international community."

Like so many politicians in the Balkans, Mr Djukanovic has changed his spots. He was once an ally of Mr Milosevic, who he now describes as "a key reason for the disintegration of Yugoslavia".

Even now, however, he seems reluctant to see anything wrong in his early support for Belgrade. He denies, too, that Montenegrins played an important role in shelling the historic city of Dubrovnik in 1991, saying only that they "participated in the Yugoslav army" - in other words, they fought under duress from Belgrade.

As in Serbia, there is widespread anger against the Nato bombings in Montenegro. But unlike Serbia, Montenegro has shown sympathy for the plight of the Albanians from Kosovo - tens of thousands of whom have sought refuge in Montenegro in recent weeks.