AUGUSTA (AP) – Surrounded by security seldom seen in Maine’s capital, Gov. John Baldacci met Wednesday with the president of the Republic of Montenegro to mark a federally arranged partnership between the two jurisdictions’ military units.

Baldacci and Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic exchanged gifts and both declared their meeting to be the beginning of a lasting partnership with hopes that it will go beyond military matters.

“There are opportunities for cultural and educational exchange programs, for expanded trade and economic ties, and for increased understanding between our people,” said Baldacci, who accepted an invitation to visit the Balkan country at an undetermined time.

Vujanovic said those contacts “will pave the way to promoting ties.”

Maine’s legislative leaders attended the meeting between Baldacci and Vujanovic.

Under a federal National Guard Bureau program that partners state military units with those of emerging democracies, Montenegro’s military has been paired with the Maine National Guard. Montenegro declared its independence last June 3 when it separated from Serbia.

In December, a delegation from the Maine National Guard headed by Maj. Gen. John Libby visited Montenegro to begin the partnership. Libby, who heads the Maine Guard, will next travel to Germany and Croatia where details of the partnership will be worked out during the next few weeks, said Baldacci’s spokesman, David Farmer.

As part of the State Partnership Program, the Maine National Guard will advise Montenegro’s military on its transition to an all-volunteer professional force. The partnership might also cover training of noncommissioned officers, emergency management, search and rescue operations, officer training, language training and coastal defense, said Farmer. Cultural exchanges could also result.

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