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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 04:13 GMT 05:13 UK
Montenegro holds secession rally
By Nick Hawton
BBC News, Podgorica

Pro-independence rally in Podgorica
Montenegrins rally for independence in Podgorica
A huge pro-independence rally has been held in Podgorica, Montenegro's capital, ahead of Sunday's referendum on whether to break away from Serbia.

Thousands of people gathered in the main square to listen to traditional Montenegrin songs and speeches from pro-independence politicians.

Red and gold flags with the Montenegrin royal crest were waved from balconies and trees surrounding the square.

Montenegro currently forms part of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro.

The two peoples have very close religious and cultural links and this has left Montenegro's people deeply divided as to whether to sever ties with Serbia.

'Test of maturity'

If Montenegro does vote for independence in Sunday's referendum, it will be a landmark in the history of the Balkans and the final act in the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia.

About 50,000 people turned out to hear speeches in the run-up to Sunday's referendum when Montenegrins will be asked whether they want to break away from the state union of Serbia and Montenegro.

Messages of support were read out from sports people and others in public life.

Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic who has led the independence campaign, said the nation's destiny was in their hands.

He said the whole world was focused on Montenegro. He said the country was facing a test of its maturity and that it would pass that test.

Montenegro, with less than 700,000 people, was the smallest republic of the former Yugoslavia.

It's nearly 90 years since Montenegro was last an independent state.

See scenes from a pro-independence rally

Q&A: Montenegro referendum
19 May 06 |  Europe
Should Montenegro split from Serbia?
19 May 06 |  Have Your Say
Country profile: Serbia and Montenegro
16 May 06 |  Country profiles

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