Montenegro has become the 192nd member state of the United Nations. Montenegro's president and top leaders of the world body marked the occasion with a flag-raising ceremony outside U.N. headquarters in New York.

"I declare the Republic of Montenegro admitted to membership in the United Nations."

With those words, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson made it official. Five weeks after citizens of the tiny Balkan republic voted for independence from Serbia, Montenegro is a full-fledged member of the family of nations.

Moments after the Assembly accepted Montenegro's membership application, Serbia's acting U.N. Ambassador Slavko Kruljevic acknowledged the end of an 88-year union.

"I would emphasize that the Republic of Serbia, having spent almost a century in common state with the republic of Montenegro, shall seek to develop the closest and most friendly bilateral relations," he said. "The policy of good neighborliness and regional cooperation represents the cornerstone of my country's foreign policy in its commitment to the lasting stabilization of the region of southeast Europe."

A short time later, the Montenegrin flag was raised at a formal ceremony in the U.N. plaza, alongside the flags of the 191 other member nations.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed Montenegro's orderly path to independence, calling it a welcome change from the Balkan region's violent past.

"The people of Montenegro demonstrated that adherence to democratic values and the rule of law offer the most effective way to achieve political goals," he said. " And they showed that even most sensitive problems can be resolved peacefully."

Montenegro's President Filip Vujanovic said he was pleased to convey his country's appreciation to the world body.

"It is a great event for Montenegro's citizens but at same time, this is a great responsibility for us," he said.  "We are aware about it, and we are devoted to the goals of the United Nations."

Montenegro is the first country admitted to the United Nations since East Timor in 2002. It has already been recognized by nearly all countries, including the United States.

The Balkan nation of 620,000 people is the latest of the former republics of Yugoslavia to leave Belgrade's orbit. Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia split earlier, during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.