Kostunica offers comprise with Montenegro over key federal posts

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The Independent Online

President Vojislav Kostunica is offering Montenegro's leadership posts in his new Cabinet to try and get their backing for his plan to pick a former supporter of Slobodan Milosevic as Yugoslavia's prime minister.

President Vojislav Kostunica is offering Montenegro's leadership posts in his new Cabinet to try and get their backing for his plan to pick a former supporter of Slobodan Milosevic as Yugoslavia's prime minister.

"A compromise must be struck between Serbia and Montenegro," Kostunica said in a television interview Sunday night. Serbia and Montenegro form Yugoslavia.

Kostunica said he was ready to appoint members of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic's party to Cabinet jobs if they agreed to allow the federal prime ministership to go to a member of a rival Montenegrin party.

The constitution requires the prime minister to be from Montenegro since the Kostunica, the federal president, is from Serbia.

Kostunica also said Sunday he would dispatch his aide, Zoran Djindjic, for talks with Djukanovic at the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica.

However, Djindjic was still in Belgrade at midmorning Monday, attending talks between Kostunica's backers and the pro-Milosevic government of Serbia, the larger Yugoslav republic, on transferring power from the republican administration to the pro-democracy camp.

The talks in Belgrade resumed at around 10 a.m. (0800 GMT). Kostunica's demands that the two sides share control of key ministries was said to be holding up acceptance of the deal.

Although Kostunica became president Oct. 7, he is still trying to assert his authority over Yugoslavia's two republics - Serbia and much smaller Montenegro, which have their own elected governments.

Kostunica's allies have been negotiating for the past week with Slobodan Milosevic's associates over dissolving the Serbia parliament and administration and calling new elections by the end of the year.

But Milosevic's Socialist Party appears to be stalling.

While claiming they have agreed to demands by Kostunica supporters to dissolve Serbia's hardline parliament later this month and call early elections in December, the Socialists have refused to agree to share key ministries with Kostunica's backers until the early elections.

The Montenegrin issue has added another layer of complexity to attempts by the Kostunica camp to nudge Yugoslavia toward democracy.

On the federal level, Kostunica's pro-democracy forces need the support of the Djukanovic rivals - the Montenegrin party that formerly supported Milosevic - in parliament, to form a majority. This was the primary reason they were reaching out to them to fill the post of federal prime minister.

In a further complication, Djukanovic is threatening to call a referendum on independence for the tiny mountain republic if its demands on transforming Yugoslavia into a loose confederation are rejected.

The United States opposes Montenegrin independence, fearing it would encourage ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo and lead to a further breakup of what remains of Yugoslavia.

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