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Montenegro parliament declares independence from Serbia.

PODGORICA, June 4 Kyodo

Montenegro's parliament on Saturday declared the independence of the small Adriatic Sea republic, putting an end to its union with Serbia.

The parliament also approved a special declaration of independence which qualifies Montenegro as a ''civic, multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious'' society with a market economy, whose goal is to join the European Union and NATO.

President Filip Vujanovic, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and other Montenegrin leaders attended the ceremonial session, along with Slovenian diplomat Jelko Kacin, envoy for the president of the European Parliament.

But deputies of the four political parties who campaigned for preservation of the union with Serbia boycotted the session.

With the sound of the national anthem after the session, the national flag of Montenegro was hoisted in front of the parliament building, while a number of citizens braving rain greeted independence. Fireworks in Podgorica and elsewhere also followed the declaration of independence.

Bells in churches all over Montenegro, except in the Serbian Orthodox ones, rang Saturday night celebrating the event.

The new country will immediately move forward on gaining membership to the United Nations and other international organizations, the declaration stated.

Montenegro won independence with only some 2,000 votes over the threshold of the required 55 percent of votes, determined by the EU, in a May 21 referendum. The unionist bloc got 44.5 percent.

There was no high official from Serbia present at the ceremonial session.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica had been invited but refused to attend the session, while Serbian President Boris Tadic sent his congratulations and wishes for ''peace and progress'' to the people of Montenegro but apologized for his absence due to a tight schedule.

Tadic was the first president to visit Montenegro immediately after the preliminary results of the referendum were announced, confirming that the small republic would secede from Serbia.

The Serbian parliament is expected to approve an independence resolution in a few days, stating also that the Serbian state is inheriting the international continuity of the union. This suggests that, unlike Montenegro, Serbia expects it will not have to demand international recognition and new membership in the U.N. and other major international organizations.

Montenegro, with its 13,812 square kilometers of territory and some 620,000 people, was a sovereign state when it decided in 1918 to join a union of south Slavic nations under Serbian kings, which later became Yugoslavia.

While most of the former Yugoslavia split apart some 15 years ago, Montenegro decided in 1992 to maintain a union with Serbia, which was finally disbanded May 21 by the Montenegrin electorate.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Jun 5, 2006
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