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Montenegro's Top Prosecutor Overrules Arrest Warrants For Opposition Leaders

Montenegrin opposition leaders Andrija Mandic (right) and Milan Knezevic attend a protest in front of the parliament building in Podgorica on Februaru 15.

Montenegro's state prosecutor has overruled attempts by a special prosecutor to issue an arrest warrant against two opposition leaders suspected of being involved in what authorities say was a failed coup aimed at undermining the country's NATO membership bid.

Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, leaders of a pro-Russia and anti-NATO party called the Democratic Front, have been accused of involvement in the alleged October 16 attempt to kill the then-prime minister, seize power, and prevent Montenegro from pushing forward with its plans to join NATO.

State Prosecutor Ivica Stankovic ruled late on February 15 that Mandic and Knezevic do not need to be jailed as suspects.

His order is seen by many in Podgorica as an attempt to ease tensions in the deeply divided country.

Earlier, special prosecutor Milivoje Katnic issued an arrest warrant for the two for alleged "acts against the constitutional order and security of Montenegro."

The ruling came hours after Montenegro's parliament voted to revoke Mandic and Knezevic's parliamentary immunity so they could be jailed.

Mandic and Knezevic have denied the accusations against them.

Montenegro's NATO membership bid is expected to be completed this spring.

But the country of 620,000 people remains split between those who want to move toward NATO and the West and those who prefer closer ties with Russia.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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