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Montenegro Wants to Join War on Terror; U.S. Ready to Help

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

PODGORICA, Montenegro, Sept. 26, 2006 – The newly independent nation of Montenegro wants to participate in the global war on terror, and the United States stands ready to help after the first meeting between senior officials from both nations took place here today.

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Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld meets with Montenegrin President Montenegro Filip Vujanovic at Villa Gorica, Montenegro, on Sept. 26. Photo by James M. Bowman
  

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After an overnight flight from Washington, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met here this morning with Prime Minister-designate Milo Djukanovic and President Filip Vujanovic.

At a news conference after the meeting, Rumsfeld and Djukanovic emphasized both Montenegro’s willingness to do what’s necessary to integrate itself into the Euro-Atlantic community and U.S. support for the country’s aspirations.

Montenegro declared its independence in June after being part of a joint state called Serbia and Montenegro following the breakup of the Yugoslav federation.

“We see this visit as recognition of what Montenegro has done in terms of contributing to the stability of the region, as well as encouragement to our European and Euro-Atlantic integration,” Djukanovic said through an interpreter.

Djukanovic said he briefed Rumsfeld on the country’s economic, political and defense situations, as well as the country’s plans. He said he also expressed Montenegro’s desire for further development of its strategic partnership with the United States.

The prime minister-designate said the discussion took into account the proportional difference between Montenegro and the United States, but also considered U.S. foreign policy plans for the Balkan region.

The United States, he said, has “expertise, experience and know-how” in military matters from which Montenegro’s small, volunteer military can learn. “We are now in the initial stage of organizing our defense function,” he said, “and we want it to be in accordance with our Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”

Montenegro hopes to become part of the NATO “Partnership for Peace” program as a precursor to eventual admittance to NATO as a full-fledged member. It also is seeking stronger ties and continued integration into the European community, and Djukanovic acknowledged that further military reforms will be necessary for Montenegro in that process.

The country’s regional aspirations include being part of the Southeastern European Defense Ministerial conference series; one begins tomorrow in the Albanian capital of Tirana. The SEDM meetings now include Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Romania and Turkey. Montenegro also hopes to become part of the Adriatic Charter, created in May 2003 by the United States along with the governments of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia as a mechanism for promoting regional cooperation to advance each country's NATO candidacy.

Rumsfeld praised Montenegro for the way in which it achieved independence.

“That Montenegro has been able to come through the past in a peaceful way, in an orderly way, and with such success, I think is a good sign for their success in the future,” he said. The secretary noted that Montenegro is at a historic point in its history, one at which the decisions it makes and the paths it chooses will chart the course for many decades to come.

“We hope that Montenegro will not only become an early member of Partnership for Peace,” he said, “but also will participate fully in the many opportunities that offers to join with other countries -- partner countries and NATO countries -- in contributing to peace and security in the world.”

Djukanovic said his discussions with Rumsfeld today did not involve the question of whether Montenegro would send forces to Afghanistan or Iraq.

“We are prepared to accept all the responsibilities of a nation that aspires to European and Euro-Atlantic integration,” Djukanovic said. “Danger from terrorism we see in Montenegro as a global threat to world peace and security, and that’s why we are prepared to participate in the U.S.-led coalition in fighting terrorism and threats to global peace.”

But, he said, he and Rumsfeld did not discuss any specific form that participation might entail. Those questions, he added, certainly will be the subject of future meetings between Montenegrin and U.S. officials.

“The United States stands ready to cooperate in ways the government of Montenegro feels are appropriate,” Rumsfeld said. “As we have with a number of other countries in the Partnership for Peace program, we’ve been asked by the government of Montenegro to assist with defense reform as they undertake those kinds of changes that will make their military more compatible with the NATO and partner countries.”

Rumsfeld said Montenegro also has asked for U.S. help in destroying outdated and dangerous or unstable weapons from an earlier era, and to see if it’s possible for a U.S. state’s National Guard to form a partnership with the Montenegrin military, “which we think is certainly something that we’d like to cooperate with.”

The secretary said that as Montenegro makes its decisions about defense reform and signs on to specific areas it would like to concentrate on, the United States will assist in those areas, as well.

“The prime minister mentioned two specifically,” Rumsfeld said. “One is peacekeeping, and goodness knows there’s a need in this world of ours for capable, competent, well-equipped, well-trained peacekeepers. And he also mentioned special operations and a special competence in that area. And the United States, of course, cooperates with other countries in those two areas on a rather broad basis.”

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Biographies:
Donald H. Rumsfeld

Related Sites:
State Department Background Notes on Montenegro

Related Articles:
Rumsfeld Arrives in Montenegro to Meet With Leaders


Click photo for screen-resolution imageSecretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld answers questions during a press availability with Montenegrin Prime Minister-designate Milo Djukanovic at Villa Gorica, Montenegro, on Sept. 26. Rumsfeld is visiting Montenegro, the world's newest country, to recognize its independence and encourage the country’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic community. Photo by James M. Bowman  
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