Montenegro becomes 192nd member of UN

Iran Materials 29 June 2006 10:54

(AP) - The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday unanimously admitted the newly independent Republic of Montenegro as the 192nd member of the world body.

General Assembly President Jan Eliasson called for approval of the resolution by acclamation and when there was no objection he banged the gavel and said: "I declare the Republic of Montenegro admitted to membership in the United Nations." Diplomats burst into applause, reports Trend.

Eliasson then asked the chief of protocol to escort Montenegro's delegation including President Filip Vujanovic, Foreign Minister Miodrag Vlahovic, and new special U.N. envoy Nebojsa Kaludjerovic to their seats in the General Assembly hall, again to sustained applause.

Montenegro's admission to the United Nations comes just over a month after citizens of the tiny Balkan nation voted for independence from Serbia by a slim margin. That referendum on May 21 was followed by an official declaration of independence from Serbia on June 3.

Montenegro's decision to split from Serbia marked the final breakup of what was once Yugoslavia, a process that began when the federation of six republics disintegrated in violence in the 1990s.

Serbia supported preserving the union with Montenegro and initially disputed the results of Montenegro's referendum, fueling fears of tension between the two nations. Serbia opposed previous declarations of independence by Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, triggering nearly a decade of wars.

But the establishment of diplomatic relations between Serbia and Montenegro earlier this month and Monday's announcement of a new start in relations by the presidents of the two countries were seen as encouraging signs.

After Wednesday's vote, Serbia's acting ambassador Slavko Kruljevic welcomed Montenegro's admission.

"I would like to emphasize that the Republic of Serbia, having spent almost a century in a common state with the Republic of Montenegro, shall seek to develop the closest and most friendly bilateral relations," he assured U.N. member states.

U.S. deputy ambassador Jackie Sanders welcomed Montenegro's admission and called it a "momentous occasion in its history."

On behalf of Montenegro, president Vujanovic conveyed his country's gratitude to U.N. members and said U.N. membership represented "a step forward in the overall development of Montenegro."

"We are aware of many challenges that lie ahead," he said, "but after a long period of time we shall be responsible for our own destiny."

After the speeches, diplomats and Secretary-General Kofi Annan walked outside and watched Montenegro's flag being raised alongside the flags of the other 191 U.N. member states.

Montenegro was an independent kingdom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but it abandoned its statehood to join a new Serb-led Balkan union in 1918.

Montenegro, with 620,000 people, was the only republic to stay with Serbia. But it gradually edged toward independence during the autocratic rule of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who died earlier this year while on trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal for his part in the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia.