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Calm returns to Montenegro on inauguration day

Opponents of new president clashed with police Wednesday

January 15, 1998
Web posted at: 9:07 a.m. EST (1407 GMT)

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Montenegro's capital was quiet on inauguration day Thursday, a day after protesters clashed with police in an attempt to show their opposition to the new president.

The United States held Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic responsible for the violence, the worst in decades in one of the two remaining Yugolsav republics.

Political sources said supporters of the republic's new reform-minded President Milo Djukanovic expected his inauguration ceremony, to be held later Thursday in Montenegro's ancient capital Cetinje, to pass quietly.

Rival's supporters clashed with police

Protesters clash with police in Podgorica
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Supporters of his rival, outgoing hard-line president Momir Bulatovic, clashed with police on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to block the transfer of power in the republic.

About 45 people were injured when demonstrators fired shots into the air and threw missiles at police after Bulatovic called on the crowd of several thousand to show its strength.

Workers cleared debris from the streets on Thursday and towed away wrecked cars. Reporters said the north of the republic, a stronghold of Bulatovic hard-liners, was also quiet.

U.S. envoy holds Milosevic responsible

In Belgrade, U.S. envoy to the Balkans Robert Gelbard said his country held Milosevic responsible for the violent demonstrations.

He said remaining sanctions on Yugoslavia would not be lifted "until and unless the government of this country and its political leaders come to accept that international standards of behavior and democratic processes, and recognition and acceptance of democratic processes are what the world expects to happen."

"I ... have to hold President Milosevic responsible for supporting these demonstrations and for not restraining his colleague, Mr. Bulatovic," Gelbard told reporters.

He said the U.S. government and the international community were deeply concerned and offended "by the absolutely outrageous behavior by outgoing President Bulatovic in inciting these illegal riots ... completely in contravention with international law and all accepted standards."

Bulatovic has claimed fraud in elections

Police and protesters
Police and protesters clashed Wednesday night in Podgorica  

Djukanovic won October elections in Montenegro. But Bulatovic has refused to recognize the result of the balloting, claiming fraud, although international observers have said the elections generally were free and fair.

Bulatovic had given Gelbard his word in person on Monday that he would hand over power peacefully to his rival. He later backtracked on that pledge, inciting the crowd on Wednesday.

Gelbard said he was "personally offended" Bulatovic had gone back on his word.

"His subsequent behavior makes it very clear that he is not a person who lives by international standards or accepts democracy. I hold him responsible along with his collaborators for this outrageous illegal behavior," Gelbard said.

"The United States government supports the election of president-elect Djukanovic. We, and I know others, expect to see his inauguration take place peacefully and expect to see no interference in his ability to implement the government which he will be putting into place," Gelbard stressed.

Ambassadors from some 50 countries were in Montenegro for Thursday's ceremony.

Wednesday's confrontation threatened to create a new Balkan flashpoint in Montenegro, with the young reformist Djukanovic a rival to Milosevic's hold on power in the federation which now comprises Serbia and its smaller sister republic.


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