Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Montenegro: Berlusconi accused of electoral 'meddling'
Podgorica, 16 March – Montenegro's political opposition on Monday accused Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi of interfering in the local campaign for political elections to be held on 29 March. It also said Berlusconi's meeting with Montenegro's current premier and so-called political 'godfather' Milo Djukanovic sent "a bad message that organised crime pays off."
Berlusconi was to arrive for a surprise visit to Podgorica late Monday for talks with president Filip Vujanovic and Djukanovic, known as Montegro's political 'godfather'.
A controversial figure, Djukanovic has already served four terms as prime minister and one term as president, but he resigned in 2006 to dedicate himself to his business interests.
Montenegro's opposition leaders have claimed Djukanovic accumulated millions of euros in investment and banking schemes between 2006 and 2008.
Berlusconi was also to meet Italian language students, but refused to meet politicians from Montenegro's opposition parties.
Nebojsa Medojevic, president of the opposition Movement for Changes party, said he requested a meeting with Berlusconi through the Italian embassy in Podgorica, but Berlusconi had declined the request.
Medojevic said the embassy replied that Berlusconi would meet “only with representatives of official institutions”.
Medojevic said that Berlusconi's visit came at a “very sensitive moment at the end of a parliamentary election campaign and everything should be done to avoid a possible political manipulation of the visit."
Djukanovic has been investigated by Italian prosecutors for his alleged role in a multimillion dollar mob-run cigarette smuggling racket to Italy in the 1990s and for money laundering.
But the case was dropped after he became prime minister again last February.
Medojevic said that Berlusconi’s visit was a “private arrangement with some people at the pinnacle of power”.
"We are disappointed that the Italian premier is meeting ahead of the election with a man who was indicted by the Italian judiciary," Medojevic said.
"That could only send a message that organized crime pays off."
Montenegro foreign ministry said in a statement that relations between Rome and Podgorica were “excellent” and that Berlusconi’s visit was a “support to their further development."
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:58 PM