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ReliefWeb /AFP/: Montenegro promises "friendly relations" with Serbia

Published date: 17.04.2006 10:43 | Author: Kliping inostranih medija

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PODGORICA, Serbia-Montenegro, April 13, 2006 (AFP) - The pro-independence government of Montenegro said on Thursday it would keep "friendly relations" with Serbia after the vote on May 21 referendum on separation from their union.

The government of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic adopted a declaration on future ties with Serbia, saying that Montenegro "is ready to develop and promote political, economic, security and cultural cooperation with Serbia after gaining independence," a statement said.

"Montenegro is determined to keep an open-border policy with Serbia, in accordance with international obligations of the process of integration in the European institutions," the statement said.

Djukanovic told reporters after the government session that "there will be no anti-Serb policies in Montenegro."

"We call on Serbia to have relations as close friends, based on mutual respect and equality," Djukanovic said.

Montenegro is the only state of former communist Yugoslavia that remains together with Serbia after the six-republic federation was shattered in a series of wars in the 1990s.

But Djukanovic's government has vowed to fight for independence from Belgrade, citing its desire not to be dominated by Serbia, which has more than eight million people compared with Montenegro's population of about 650,000.

Belgrade authorities do not support the independence, saying the two republics have more chances to join the EU together, in their loose union, formed in 2003, to replace former Yugoslavia.

But in March, Montenegro's parliament unanimously backed an EU proposal to hold the historic referendum on the Balkan state's independence from Serbia on May 21.

The European Union plan means the vote will have to pass by a 55-percent threshold in a turnout of at least 50 percent of the republic's 466,000 registered voters.

However, Montenegro itself has remained deeply divided over the independence issue, with the latest survey, published on Wednesday, showing that 36.5 percent would support the move, while 35.3 percent were against it. Another 8 percent said they would "probably" vote for the independence.

A survey done on 1,127 people showed that more than 60 percent of those polled would vote on the May 21 referendum.

The two republics share the same language, Orthodox religion and cultural heritage.