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NATO's Robertson Warns Milosevic Over Montenegro
December 9, 1999
ROME (Reuters) - NATO chief Lord George Robertson said on Thursday the West was closely monitoring events in Montenegro, warning Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic not to begin the new century stirring up tensions in the Balkans.
``President Milosevic should be well warned that he should not start the 21st century fomenting more trouble in the Balkans,'' the NATO secretary-general told reporters after talks with Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema in Rome.
``We watch with concern and with great attention what is happening in Montenegro and to President Djukanovic in that part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who has a democratic mandate from his people.''
Montenegro, Serbia's only partner in the Yugoslav federation, has been at loggerheads with Belgrade since pro-Western Milo Djukanovic became president in 1997. The Montenegrin leadership has threatened to declare independence if Milosevic does not reform their joint federation. Those tensions have flared in recent days, with a standoff between the Yugoslav army and Montenegrin police causing the closure of the republic's airport. The airport reopened on Thursday after the standoff ended peacefully.
``The international community and NATO took action this year to stop Milosevic from conducting the kind of ethnic warfare that has marked and stained the last decade in what used to be Yugoslavia and therefore we will continue to pay very keen attention to events in Montenegro,'' Robertson said.
``We will continue to keep Milosevic under very close attention in relation to Kosovo and elsewhere as well.'' Montenegro was the last republic left with Serbia following the bloody breakup of socialist Yugoslavia. During NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia over Kosovo the West, fearing a conflict over Montenegro, warned Belgrade to leave it alone.
``The stability of the Balkans is something that has marked the whole of our continent during the 20th century,'' said Robertson. ``I hope Milosevic will recognize the firmness of resolve to make sure that the Balkans are not going to start the 21st century as another center of instability.''
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