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'In a Hostage-Like Situation' with Serbia, Montenegro Minister Wants Independence

Foreign Minister's aim during his Washington trip is to 'make sure our position is heard.'

Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2004 — Miodrag Vlahović, the Foreign Minister of Montenegro, told reporters at the Voice of America (VOA) today that his meetings in Washington this week with officials from the U.S. State Department and National Security Council were to "make sure our position is heard" on the issue of independence for Montenegro, not to change the official U.S. position. The U. S. supports a democratic Montenegro within a democratic union with Serbia.

In a press conference with VOA reporters, Vlahović continued to advocate the idea of Montenegro "staying together with Serbia, being independent" and creating an alliance of independent states along the lines of the European Union model. In 2002, the country was restructured into a loose federation of two republics and an agreement was reached to allow a referendum in each republic in three years on the issue of full independence. Vlahović described Montenegro "in a hostage-like situation" to the larger Serbian republic, but described independence within a commonwealth as a solution that would "avoid a Balkan-type solution where one side is an absolute winner and one side an absolute loser."

When questioned about the possibility of wanted war criminals being sheltered in Montenegro, the Foreign Minister conceded it was "a theoretical possibility" but stated that such actions are "against our will and without our knowledge" and stressed that "if we knew about it, we would report it."

The televised VOA Newsmaker press conference with Vlahović was broadcast live via radio, television and the Internet to Europe, North Africa and Central Asia. VOA's Serbian Service broadcasts three half-hour radio shows daily on short and medium wave, including a simulcast of the daily 30-minute television show Otvoreni Studio (Open Studio).

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages, including Serbian and English.

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