23 February 2008 Podgorica, Montenegro: More than 10,000 people attended a rally in Montenegro Friday backing Serbia's opposition to Kosovo's independence.
Montenegro's government was issued with a stark warning not recognise Kosovo's declaration of independence at the protest.
The rally was held in front of the country's parliament, with the backing of the Serbian List Party, other small pro-Serbian parties, along with the Socialist People's Party, which claims it represents 32 per cent of Montenegro's population who are ethnic Serbs.
"We are all together here to send a message that nobody in Montenegro should dare to recognise the so-called creation of Kosovo," said Andrija Mandic, leader of the Serbian List.
The leader of the Socialist Peoples Party, Srdjan Milic emphasised that "it is in the biggest interest of every free minded citizen of Montenegro to refuse to acknowledge state which does not exist," and to "reject the policy of diktats which have abducted the cradle of a nation.
"The biggest applause was received by the delegation of Kosovo Serbs headed by Milan Ivanovic.Hundreds of Serbian flags, together with one Montenegrin flag, and flags of countries that have so far spoken out against Kosovo's independence namely those of Russia, Spain and Greece, could be seen at the rally.
Priests from the Serbian Orthodox Church maintained a visible presence at the protest, and security forces surrounded the buildings of parliament and the government. However, the rally passed off without incident.
In contrast, the 7 per cent of Montenegro's population who are ethnic Albanians celebrated Kosovo independence's in their homes and at the local Albanian political party's headquarters. They did so after warnings from their political leaders and the government to avoid big celebrations that could upset the Serbian minority.
Ruling coalition leader Milo Djukanovic hinted in January that Montenegro will recognize Kosovo independence."We will follow the European Union’s position, but we will not hurry", Djukanovic said.The pro-Serbian opposition parties, that hold about 15 per cent of seatsin parliament, demanded a extraordinary parliamentary session to discuss whether to recognise Kosovo or not.
"I'm wondering what Montenegro gains from Kosovo's recognition? I will do all I can to prevent something which could endanger Montenegro's reputation in our history," said Milic.