Montenegro takes first step towards European Union

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LUXEMBOURG, Oct 15 (Reuters) Montenegro signed a key accord with the European Union today that put the small Adriatic republic on the first rung of the ladder to eventual membership of the 27-nation bloc.

Prime Minister Zeljko Sturanovic signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg after overcoming a last-minute hitch involving Bulgaria, which objected to the wording of the text.

Sofia had threatened to delay the signature in its battle for the right to use the Bulgarian name ''evro'' for the currency in its Cyrillic alphabet, but it allowed the signing to go ahead after EU envoys pledged in a declaration to address the problem.

Montenegro, the world's newest independent state, voted to leave its union with Serbia in May 2006.

REUTERS SKB HS1718

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