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Serbo Journal

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Left alone, Serbia declares its independence too

Serbia declared its own independence after Montenegro, its last ally, abandoned its formal 88-year association with Belgrade, the final act of Yugoslavia's turbulent history.

After an extraordinary session of parliament, officials lowered the flag of the defunct federation of Serbia and Montenegro from the building in Belgrade and raised the Serbian standard in its place.

Lawmakers proclaimed independence before transferring solely onto Belgrade the international status of the federation, including its seat on bodies such as the

United Nations.

Serbia effectively became a sovereign state after all 126 deputies present in the 250-seat assembly backed an order to the government and state bodies to complete all formalities about the succession and resolve all disputed issues with Montenegro within next 45 days.

It follows Montenegro's own formal independence declaration Saturday after the tiny Balkan state voted on May 21 to secede from the union that had bound together the last remnants of the former Yugoslavia.

Neither Prime Minister

Vojislav Kostunica, who has been reluctant to accept Montenegro's decision, nor President Boris Tadic was present as the deputies gathered in gloomy mood.

"Montenegro's separation is a sad reality for me," said Milos Aligrudic of Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia.

He added: "I urge you that we continue considering all the people who live in Montenegro as our brothers and not to have hard feelings towards them."

Serbia's neighbour, sandwiched between the mountains and the Adriatic Sea and with a population of just 650,000, declared independence after its May 21 referendum led to 55.5 percent voting in favour of going it alone.

The move also ended the painful, 15-year dissolution of former communist Yugoslavia, after Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia went their separate ways in the early 1990s.

Yugoslavia has existed in three separate forms during the 20th century.

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, created in 1918, was renamed as Yugoslavia in 1929 and existed in that form until it was invaded in 1941.

A communist Yugoslavia emerged after the end of World War II in 1945, but it, too, crumbled amid conflict in the early 1990s.

Federal Yugoslavia then came into being, although it was effectively just Serbia and Montenegro, and that union was renamed as a federation in 2003 when the name Yugoslavia was discarded.

Under the constitution of Serbia-Montenegro, Serbia inherits its membership in the United Nations and all other international and financial organizations.

Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party -- the biggest group in parliament -- said he was "really sorry that Montenegro, with enormous help from the

European Union, gained so-called independence and many members of our people were left out of our borders."

It was under EU pressure that Serbia and Montenegro formed their union with the proviso that each republic could leave the federation if that was the wish of their majority.

Brussels also helped Podgorica's push for a referendum -- stipulating, for instance, the minimum 55-percent threshold for the vote to be validated -- and persuaded all sides to accept the result.

"This is not the time for sorrow," said Dusan Petrovic, of the opposition Democratic Party.

"The citizens of Montenegro decided to live separately from Serbia. They decided to live alone and I congratulate them, regardless the fact that it is not in accordance with the wish and policy of my party," said Petrovic, whose party halted a months-long boycott of the parliament to attend the session.

However, both Radical and Democratic party deputies boycotted the vote.

After Monday's ceremonies, the flags of Serbia-Montenegro will be sent to a museum, officials said.

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