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Serbia goes solo after last partner leaves

Written by: Staff
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BELGRADE, June 5 (Reuters) Serbia formally shed the trappings of its joint state with Montenegro today after the Adriatic republic declared independence at the weekend following a May 21 referendum vote to end their 88 year partnership.

The deed was done at a special session of parliament through the adoption of a motion to ''establish that Serbia has become the successor of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro and fully succeeded its legal status and international documents'', in the words of Speaker Predrag Markovic.

Serbia did not want the split but will not oppose it.

The state union flag has already disappeared from the Serbian parliament building and the Serbian flag was to be raised in its place later today.

Markovic said ahead of the session that there was no need for any pomp. The president and prime minister were absent.

Montenegro and Serbia had been together in states under different names since 1918.

European Union officials have urged the two to have a ''velvet divorce''. But Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica rebuffed an offer of EU help on Friday in terms indicating the parting would be correct but not especially amicable.

Over the weekend, the EU presidency issued a statement calling on Serbia and Montenegro ''to pursue a direct and constructive dialogue on their future relations''.

The NATO alliance issued a statement recognising Montenegro's independence and calling on Belgrade and Podgorica ''to engage in direct talks on the issues which must now be addressed''.

The Serbian parliament gave the government and other state bodies 45 days to adopt regulations needed to assume all the powers from the defunct state union.

Montenegro, the last of the five former Yugoslav republics to leave the orbit of Belgrade, held a special evening parliament session on Saturday to declare its independence, attended by its prime minister and president.

No Serbian officials attended the ceremony and neither did the anti-independence opposition camp, which had complained the referendum was plagued with irregularities and has yet to fully accept the result.

REUTERS KD PM1742

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