June 3, 2006

Montenegro to declare independence Saturday

PODGORICA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Montenegro is
set to declare independence on Saturday evening with
parliament's formal adoption of the decision its people made in
a referendum on May 21 to end ties with Serbia.

The mountainous Adriatic coast republic of some 650,000
people, about the size of Northern Ireland, is the last of
ex-Yugoslavia's six constituent republics to leave the orbit of

In the case of Montenegro, Serbia's closest ally, the split
ends a partnership with Serbia dating back to 1918.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica responded
frostily to the Montenegrin vote for independence and rebuffed
European Union offers to assist the two countries in a "velvet
divorce," indicating the parting will be correct but not

His Montenegrin counterpart Milo Djukanovic, the champion
of the independence drive, invited Kostunica to Montenegro for
a reception following parliament's declaration. But there was
no indication on Saturday that the Serb leader would attend.

Saturday's declaration was expected to be a low-profile
event, but Montenegrins in the capital Podgorica would likely
celebrate as they did two weeks ago, with car cavalcades, some
fireworks and Balkan-style celebratory gunfire.

Montenegro plans to have its main independence day
celebrations on July 13, currently its "statehood day," with
foreign dignitaries in attendance.