Rumsfeld Arrives in Montenegro to Meet With Leaders
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
PODGORICA, Montenegro, Sep. 26, 2006 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived here today for meetings with Montenegrin leaders.
This is Rumsfeld’s first visit to the country, and he’s the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Montenegro since it achieved its independence earlier this year.
On the 10-hour flight here from Washington, Pentagon Press Secretary Eric Ruff said the secretary will discuss with Montenegrin leaders the role they envision for their country in fighting terrorism.
“The Montenegrins have indicated that they would like to be part of the effort to fight the global war on terror,” Ruff said. “They have indicated that their willingness is something that they would like to discuss further with the secretary when he comes in to visit.”
In a pre-trip briefing in Washington last week, a senior defense official told reporters Rumsfeld intends to congratulate the Montenegrin leadership on the country’s independence and the peaceful manner in which it was achieved.
After the breakup of the Yugoslav federation, a March 2002 agreement redefined Montenegro's relationship with Serbia within a joint state, and in February 2003, Yugoslavia’s parliament ratified a constitutional charter establishing a new state union and changing the name of the country from Yugoslavia to Serbia and Montenegro.
On May 21 of this year, Montenegrin voters chose independence. The country declared its independence June 3, and Serbia, the European Union and all permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have since recognized the declaration. The United States recognized Montenegro on June 12 and established formal diplomatic relations Aug. 15.
Montenegro joined the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on June 22, and the United Nations on June 28. Ruff said part of today’s discussion between Rumsfeld and the Montenegrin government’s leaders will center on the country’s desire to become part of NATO’s “Partnership for Peace” program and eventually to attain full membership in the alliance.
“We certainly support this effort, and it is an integral step for Montenegro (toward) joining NATO,” he said.