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Serbian President Calls on Nation to Accept Montenegro's Independence

Serbian President Boris Tadic has called on his country to accept Montenegro's declaration of independence and to extend a hand of friendship to the people of the tiny Montenegrin republic.

Writing in Wednesday's Washington Post newspaper, Mr. Tadic said that the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia has too often become "a sad and messy affair."

However, in the case of Serbia and Montenegro, he said "too many citizens will live in each other's state for pettiness to prevail."

Mr. Tadic said Serbia now need to focus on raising its standard of living and clearing the way for eventual integration into European trade and security structures.

He also said Serbia must meet its obligations to the international tribunal in The Hague, which is seeking the handover of war crimes suspect General Ratko Mladic.

The president said those in Serbia protecting the fugitive general are the least patriotic of Serbs. He said the protectors are part of a political culture that, quote, "hijacked Serbia and its history some 15 years ago."

The presidential essay was published just two weeks after Montenegrin voters chose to separate from their larger neighbor. The dissolution marks the demise of the last remaining confederation in the former Yugoslavia.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.