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Yugoslavia: Kostunica Rejects Independence For Kosovo, Montenegro

Belgrade, 10 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica has ruled out granting independence to the Serbian province of Kosovo or to Montenegro, Serbia's junior partner in the Yugoslav federation. Kostunica said Kosovo must remain part of Yugoslavia in accordance with a UN resolution. And he said the Yugoslav Constitution does not allow for the secession of Montenegro. Kostunica said he hopes to establish a democratic regime with both Kosovo and Montenegro. Kostunica described himself as a democrat with "normal" nationalist feelings. He said has no plans to support a "greater Serbia," an idea embraced by his predecessor, Slobodan Milosevic, who was ousted in last week's popular uprising in Belgrade.

Kostunica's comments, made to French television, came as the Serbian parliament called yesterday for early parliamentary elections in December.

Milosevic's regime, meanwhile, continued to unravel with the resignations of three top officials (Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic, and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Milovan Bojic).

Separately, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine is due to hold talks in Belgrade today with Kostunica.

Vedrine's trip comes one day after European Union foreign ministers partially lifted sanctions against Yugoslavia to welcome Kostunica's replacement of the ousted Milosevic.

The EU ministers lifted an oil embargo and formalized lifting a flight ban. Economic and travel restrictions on Milosevic and his allies were kept in place.

Vedrine said he plans to ask Kostunica about his immediate hopes for a Yugoslav rapprochement with Europe and his views on Kosovo and Montenegro.

The United States and Canada said they plan to follow the EU's lead in lifting some sanctions against Yugoslavia.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has meanwhile urged Kostunica to apply to regain Yugoslavia's UN membership. The country's UN seat was declared vacant after the old Yugoslavia fell apart in the early 1990s.