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Yugoslavia: Montenegro's Liberal Alliance Withdraws Support For Government

Prague, 21 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Montenegro's Liberal Alliance Party says it is withdrawing support for the government to protest a new accord that preserves the republic's union with Serbia.

The move yesterday by the pro-independence party is unlikely to prevent parliament's ratification of the Belgrade accord, but may trigger the collapse of the Montenegrin government.

Liberal Alliance chief Miodrag Zivkovic told reporters in Podgorica yesterday that the party believes Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic betrayed voters when he signed the historic agreement that restructures -- but preserves -- the current Yugoslavia as a looser federation between Serbia and Montenegro.

"With this agreement in Belgrade, Montenegro got a new federation instead of a referendum [on independence]. Mr. Djukanovic and [Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic] may represent the Montenegrin people, the people who support an independent Montenegro, but they have stolen the state and given it to the minority who opposed an independent country. I want to remind you that with this act, the Democratic Party of Socialists (Djukanovic's party) broke its own party program and completely betrayed all the people who voted for an independent Montenegro, [as well as] breaking the agreement with the Liberal Alliance. Our actions are only a formal response to DPS breaking this agreement."

The Liberal Alliance's six-seat bloc in parliament is critical to the balance of power between Djukanovic's coalition and his opponents, who have favored maintaining the common Yugoslav state.

The Alliance agreed to support Djukanovic's government after they were promised a referendum on independence this year. Now, without Alliance support, Prime Minister Vujanovic faces a possible no-confidence vote in parliament.

The Alliance move will have dramatic effects on the domestic political scene, but will most likely not deter official ratification of the Belgrade agreement. Djukanovic's remaining coalition bloc in parliament, combined with pro-Yugoslav deputies, constitutes the majority needed to ratify the accord.

But Djukanovic's coalition is shaken by the loss of Alliance support, which could trigger early parliamentary elections in Montenegro or even Djukanovic's ouster as president in elections later this year.

The coalition is hoping a last-minute compromise with the Liberals is still possible.

Prime Minister Vujanovic told Montenegrin state radio yesterday that the party could even have some seats in the cabinet if it chose to return its support to the governing coalition.

"I hope that a solution can be found [to retain] the Liberal Alliance's support for the government because it's the only way we will have the option of holding a referendum on independence in three years. I am ready to give some ministerial posts to the Liberal Alliance. We can talk about every possible solution, because it's most important to save the union of the independence bloc as a guarantee that after three years we will get a referendum."

Under the accord signed last week in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro will share a common defense and foreign policy, but will retain separate currencies and customs regulations. After three years, both republics will have the right to hold a referendum on breaking from the union.

In Montenegro, polls indicate that a little more than half of the republic's 680,000 residents support independence from Serbia.