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Published date: 27.09.2006 16:19 | Author: Kliping inostranih medija

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Podgorica, 26 Sept. (AKI) - United States defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday his country was ready to help newly independent Montenegro organise its defence system and join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). "We are ready to support Montenegro's aspirations to join NATO," Rumsfeld said during the first visit to Montenegro since the tiny Balkan republic voted for independence in a 21 May referendum and ended its state union with Serbia.

After meeting with Montenegro president Filip Vujanovic and prime minister Milo Djukanovic, Rumsfeld told a press conference in the capital, Podgorica, that the US would assist Montenegro to set up a defence system and ministries which are in the process being created. He said that Montenegrins would participate in NATO's peace missions abroad, but said it would be decided later whether they would go to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It is encouraging to see a young country determined to implement reforms and to join Euro-Atlantic integration," Rumsfeld said. "The fact that it gained independence through democratic means enhancing Montenegro's chances," he added.

The newly re-elected Djukanovic told journalists Montenegro was prepared to sign an agreement on the "status of forces" to "support the coalition led by America in the struggle against terrorism and to participate in international peacekeeping missions."

He said he was looking forward to the promised American help in setting up a national defence system that would be compatible with NATO's. "Now that we are in the process of conceiving defence functions, we are interested in forming a defence ministry in a way that corresponds to our Euro-Atlantic aspirations," Djukanovic stated.