Serbia-Montenegro president apologizes for not attending UN summit

Serbia-Montenegro's president tenders an apology on Thursday for not heading the Balkan country's delegation to the United Nations summit in New York a decision that drew bitter criticism from Serbia, the union's larger republic.

"I regret that I am not in New York now," Svetozar Marovic said in a statement made available to The Associated Press.

Marovic canceled his trip to New York for the United Nations 60th anniversary at the last minute and without giving an explanation.

Serbia's President Boris Tadic, angered by Marovic's cancellation, also backed out of attending this week's assembly of more than 170 world leaders.

The clash over the visit stemmed from the decision of independence-seeking Montenegro, the union's smaller republic, to send a separate delegation to the summit.

Tensions have recently soared between Serbia and Montenegro, the only two former Yugoslav republics that stayed together when the six-member federation broke up in a series of bloody conflicts in the 1990s.

But the two later drifted apart over Montenegro's bid to gain independence and its claim that Serbia, with a population of 9 million people, was stifling its much smaller partner. Montenegro has about 600,000 residents.

Marovic indicated that the tension between the two republics prompted him to cancel his trip.

"It was a mistake to get entangled into questions on who would represent which republic, in what form and with which policy priorities," Marovic said. "I believed I was working in the interest of both republics, helping promote internal tolerance and understanding," reports the AP.

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