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Last Updated: Monday, 12 May, 2003, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
New Balkan leader backs secession vote
Presidential candidate Filip Vujanovic
Vujanovic is committed to joining the EU

The new president of Montenegro has pledged to hold a referendum that could see his country become independent from Serbia.

Filip Vujanovic, who won almost two-thirds of the votes at last weekend's presidential election, said a poll on independence would be called within three years.

The two republics in February entered into a loose union for three years, after which they will be allowed to hold separate referendums on independence.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS
Filip Vujanovic - 63.3%
Miodrag Zivkovic - 31%
Dragan Hajdukovic - 4%

Mr Vujanovic - the speaker of Montenegro's parliament and a member of the governing Democratic Party of Socialists - said another of his priorities would be to ensure that Montenegro eventually joined the European Union.

Mr Vujanovic won presidential elections in December and February, but the results were cancelled on both occasions because less than half the electorate turned out.

However that electoral law has now been amended in favour of a simple majority of votes cast.

Sunday saw about 48% of some 456,000 eligible voters cast their ballots.

According to unofficial results, Mr Vujanovic received 63.3%, slightly more than twice as much as his main rival, Liberal Alliance leader Miodrag Zivkovic.

'A chance for union'

Official results are expected to be announced on Tuesday.

Correspondents say opposition parties remain deeply divided and failed to put forward their own joint candidate.

Mr Vujanovic said he would give union with Serbia a chance but still favoured independence.

""We'll give a chance to the union... but we'll then give a right to people to say what they want - the union or an independent state," he told Reuters news agency.

"Our reasons for independence are pragmatic," he added. "We think that both Serbia and Montenegro would function more effectively and cheaply if independent."

Montenegro has been without a president since November when the then incumbent, Milo Djukanovic, became prime minister - a post holding more power than president.

Mr Djukanovic and Mr Vujanovic are close allies.




SEE ALSO:
Montenegro vote ruled invalid
23 Dec 02  |  Europe
Montenegro poll fails
09 Feb 03  |  Europe


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