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Archive for Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Montenegro’s split from Serbia confirmed

May 23, 2006

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— Montenegro has voted to go it alone after 88 years of union with Serbia.

By the slimmest of margins - 55.4 percent in favor - voters chose to secede from its larger Balkan neighbor. That is just over the 55 percent threshold needed to validate Sunday's referendum under rules set by the European Union.

The Serbia-Montenegro union is the last shred of the federation of Yugoslavia that began its blood-drenched breakup in the early 1990s.

The pro-Serb camp in Montenegro demanded a re-count. "The preliminary results of the referendum process should be double-checked and ballots from all the polling stations should be recounted," said a statement signed by four main leaders of the unionist bloc.

In the capital, Podgorica, people fired celebratory shots in the air and drove up and down the main street, honking and waving the eagle-emblazoned flag used when Montenegro last enjoyed independence, from 1878-1918.

In Belgrade, the Serbian capital, officials urged calm. Ethnic Serbs make up 30 percent of Montenegro's population and many strongly oppose separation from Serbia. Serbia did not want separation, but has said it will respect the decision.

Once an independent kingdom, Montenegro was erased from the map after World War I and merged into the newly formed Yugoslavia.

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