Montenegro prepares to declare independence

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Saturday, June 3, 2006

The flag of Montenegro.

Montenegro is preparing today to declare its independence from Serbia in a special parliamentary session in the capital, Podgorica. The official announcement comes two weeks after a referendum, where just over 55% of voters chose to support the split.

The 650,000-strong nation has been tied in this current union with Serbia since 1918, and the two countries are the last to remain joined since the dissolution of Yugoslavia. This evening, the alliance will come to an end to the sounds of the Montenegrin national anthem, which will be played to mark the occasion.

The main feature of tonight's session is to be the reading of the official declaration, which prioritises Montenegrin membership of the European Union and NATO. A draft version of the document states that "Montenegro is determined to build its state policy by respecting the principles of the United Nations, EU, Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe."

The location of Montenegro within Serbia and Montenegro.

Despite initial intentions that the event be low-key, thousands are expected to turn out in celebration of the split. Among those not expected to attend the session is Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica, who openly supports pro-union movements. Koštunica is not the only Serbian official who is against the separation: Serbia and Montenegro's President, Svetozar Marović, has reputedly resigned today ahead of tonight's events.

The session is set to begin at 8 p.m. local time (1800 UTC), and will include the presentation of a final report by Slovakian diplomat František Lipka, who is the head of the referendum's commission.

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