Montenegro votes to declare freedom

None | ByAgence France-Presse, Podgorica
May 22, 2006 11:03 AM IST

Prime Minister Djukanovic has declared victory for the pro-independence camp in a referendum on a split from Serbia.

Montenegro's Prime Minister has proclaimed victory for the pro-independence camp in a referendum on a split from Serbia, a move that would mark the final break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

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"Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you that tonight, by the decision of the people of Montenegro, an independent Montenegro has been renewed," a jubilant Milo Djukanovic told his supporters early on Monday.

Earlier, unofficial projections showed Montenegrins voted narrowly to declare independence, putting the last nail in the coffin of the old Yugoslavia.

Djukanovic said that 55.5 per cent of those who had voted -- just marginally above the 55 per cent majority required for the referendum to be valid -- supported independence.

"This is the most important day in the history of Montenegro," said the Prime Minister, a long-time advocate of independence.

Despite the divisions between loyalists to Serbia and those favouring independence, there were few signs of trouble during Sunday's vote, as Montenegrins turned out in record numbers.

At least 86.6 per cent of the former Yugoslav republic's 485,000 eligible voters cast ballots, according to independent monitors.

Serbian leaders did not comment on the unofficial projections while pro-Serbian parties in Montenegro refused to admit defeat.

"The result is not final until the referendum commission publishes it, until everyone accepts the results," said the pro-Serbian faction leader in Montenegro, Predrag Bulatovic.

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