May 31, 2006

Montenegro officially confirms independence vote

By Ljubinka Cagorovic

PODGORICA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Final results
from Montenegro's referendum confirmed victory for the
pro-independence bloc, voting officials said on Wednesday,
effectively ending a union with Serbia dating back to 1918.

Referendum commission head Frantisek Lipka told reporters
that final results showed 55.5 percent had voted for
independence, surpassing the 55 percent target majority set by
the European Union for recognition of the result.

"On the basis of the results of the referendum on the legal
status of the republic of Montenegro it is noted that a total
of 55.5 percent of the valid votes voted 'Yes'," said Lipka,
who is from Slovakia.

In a quick and curt reaction, the Serbian government issued
a statement through state news agency Tanjug saying only that
with confirmation of the final results Serbia "becomes the
successor state to Serbia and Montenegro."

The announcement of final results clears the way for
Montenegro to declare independence. Political sources said this
could happen on Saturday. Montenegrin officials said they were
putting the final touches to the declaration.

International monitors said the plebiscite was fair,
meeting international standards. The anti-independence campaign
lodged over 200 challenges to the results, all of which were
ultimately rejected by the referendum commission.


Montenegro's divorce from Serbia closes the last chapter of
the breakup of federal Yugoslavia. The European Union brokered
the last union agreement between the two republics in 2003, but
has since urged them to part amicably and quickly.

Serbian President Boris Tadic had already acknowledged the
preliminary result and followed up with a visit to Montenegro
at the weekend. His political rival, Prime Minister Vojislav
Kostunica, had insisted on waiting for the final figures.

The two states already have separate currencies, customs
regulations and laws. They must split their shared army and
foreign service. Each will keep former joint property on its

Serbia as the successor state inherits membership to all
international organizations, including the United Nations,
while Montenegro will have to seek recognition and admission as
a newly independent state.

Serbia's 2-year-old, minority centre-right coalition,
already weakened by defections, will need to be reshuffled to
accommodate new ministries of defense and foreign affairs.

(Additional reporting by Beti Bilandzic)