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Djukanovic 'Arrest Plot'

The Montenegrin authorities claim they have uncovered a federal army plot to arrest the republic's leader.
By Zoran Radulovic

The Yugoslav Army has hatched a plan to arrest the Montenegrin President, Milo Djukanovic, according to Podgorica government sources.


The allegation comes as US intelligence reports and a leading Serbian political commentator warn that Djukanovic is in imminent danger.


"Our services have evidence of such an (arrest) plan,"a Montenegrin state security official, who preferred not to be named, told IWPR. "President Djukanovic and the Montenegrin government have been informed of it. We have undertaken all necessary actions to protect the president."


The arrest fears will raise the political temperature in Montenegro on the eve of presidential, federal and municipal elections this Sunday.


Montenegrin parties opposed to constitutional changes recently forced through by Milosevic have already refused to participate in the federal poll. They say the ballot will only serve to prolong his rule.


Milosevic, meanwhile, insists it goes ahead in Montenegro, even if loyal Yugoslav army troops are the only voters.


While few details of the alleged plot to arrest Djukanovic are known, all the signs are that the Montenegrin president is in danger. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently said she was concerned for Montenegro and its leader.


Alrbight said US presidential elections would not detract from Washington's close monitoring of events in the republic, "Milosevic and other people should not get it into their heads that the United States is out of business during the election period."


A high-ranking US official said the Montenegrin leader is facing a "real" threat, "This is a very dangerous period for Djukanovic."


According to intelligence circles in Washington, Serbian police and Yugoslav army special forces have been placed on combat alert, while "assault" troops have already been deployed in federal barracks throughout Montenegro.


An additional warning of a crackdown on Montenegro and its president has come from Aleksandar Tijanic, a well-known Yugoslav political commentator and former Serbian information minister.


"Milosevic has issued an order to the army to bring Djukanovic to Belgrade, at any price. It is likely to happen in September or later this year if details of the plan are exposed," he wrote recently.


There's good reason to take Tijanic's remarks seriously. He has previously predicted the dismissal of Yugoslav army chief Momcilo Perisic and state security service official, Jovica Stanisic, as well as the assassination of Federal Defence Minister Pavle Bulatovic.


Responding to US concerns over Montenegro, Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said, "Madeleine Albright naturally has good information. I think that there are plenty of reasons for concern and I do not consider her statements to be a coincidence, or a result of an aggressive attitude towards Serbia.


"I expect an increase in tensions at the end of September and October, and think that October will be a particularly critical month. There are good grounds for us to take this view. I cannot say any more."


Yugoslav Army Chief-of-Staff, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, last weekend appeared to threaten Podgorica. "We have to defend our country and to unmask the deceitful treacherous conduct of individuals in our midst," he said. Many believe the Pavkovic was referring to Djukanovic.


The president's personal security officials have told Montenegrin journalists that they believe he is safe so long as he remains in the capital and avoids entering or leaving the country via Belgrade-controlled Podgorica or Tivat airports.


The Podgorica government, meanwhile, has approved a state security service request to provide bodyguards for all officials over the next few weeks, IWPR has been informed.


Despite growing concern for his safety, however, President Djukanovic has not given up his regular walks in Podgorica. On Saturday, he was noticed sipping coffee at his favourite downtown café, under the watchful eye of his security entourage.


"Milosevic is prone to provoking conflicts. I am not afraid, but I am concerned," Djukanovic said recently. "It is not wise to provoke a fifth war in the Balkans. If Milosevic persists in his intention to start a war, we will be forced to defend ourselves."


Zoran Radulovic is a regular IWPR contributor


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