Newly-independent Montenegro is set to become the United Nations' 192nd member state. Montenegro's application is expected to win final approval by next week.

The Security Council's membership committee met Wednesday, setting the stage for formal Council approval of the Montenegrin candidacy Thursday.

Denmark's U.N. Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj, the Security Council president for June, chaired a meeting to move the process forward.

"We commenced the formal procedure of the Security Council this morning and I expect that the committee on new members will agree to a decision by the Security Council finding Montenegro a worthy candidate," said Ellen Margrethe Loj.

Following Thursday's formal Council approval, the candidacy will be sent to the 191-member General Assembly. An assembly spokesman says a meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday, where approval is considered virtually certain.

Montenegro declared independence from Serbia early this month, after its voters approved the split in a May 21 referendum. The vote ended 88-years of rule by Belgrade.

Serbia at first disputed the result, but later acknowledged the split. Serbia's President Boris Tadic attended a ceremony last week at which the Serbian flag was raised outside U.N. headquarters for the first time.

In addition to Serbia, Montenegro has been recognized by the European Union, Russia, China and most of its neighbors. Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton welcomed Montenegro's membership.

"I'm very pleased that Montenegro is poised to become the 192nd member of the United Nations and we welcome them and look forward to working with them," said John Bolton.

Montenegro had been an independent kingdom in the 19th and early 20th century, but became part of the Serb-led Balkan union known as Yugoslavia in 1918. It stayed with Yugoslavia after its breakup in the early 1990s, but the relationship became strained during the rule of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who died this year while being tried on war crimes charges at The Hague.

Montenegro will become the first new state to join the United Nations since East Timor became a member in 2002.