PODGORICA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Montenegro's leading politician opposed to the republic's separation from Serbia on Wednesday claimed that a recent independence referendum was flawed and warned of "negative consequences" unless alleged irregularities are addressed.
"We suspect irregularities in the voting procedure" at a number of polling stations, said Predrag Bulatovic, and claimed that the rival side of pro-independence Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic was not allowing pro-union supporters to review "suspicious" voters' lists.
Bulatovic claimed that some 5,000 independence supporters -- who reside outside Montenegro and therefore are not eligible voters -- were "illegally included in the voters' lists" and took part in the Sunday ballot, giving Djukanovic's camp the critical edge.
A preliminary tally showed that in the tiny republic of 620,000 people, 55.5 percent of ballots cast were in favor of independence. That was just half a percentage point -- or 2,090 votes -- over the 55-percent threshold needed to validate secession under rules set by the European Union.
"I fear that these (alleged irregularities) can have negative consequences on further developments" in Montenegro, said Bulatovic's appeal to EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak, who oversaw the referendum. Bulatovic did not specify what he thought the consequences might be.
He asked Lajcak to help pro-Serbia groups have access to the disputed lists. Bulatovic also described the situation as "urgent" because Wednesday evening was the deadline for filing complaints with Montenegro's election authorities.
The EU, the U.S. and international observers have described the vote as transparent, free and fair.
Lajcak has already dismissed some of the previous claims by the anti-independence groups, saying he was "disappointed with their ... talk of stolen votes."
Bulatovic, however, pressed anew with his allegations and offered specific numbers.
He said that, after comparing data with Serbia's authorities, "we found that 2,671 persons with active residence" in Serbia" appear also on voters' list in Montenegro. Another 800 were "illegally added" to the electorate although living in neighboring Kosovo province, as well as 1,600 from neighboring Bosnia.
Djukanovic, who has spearheaded the independence drive, has urged his opponents to give up attempts to overturn Montenegro's split from Serbia. His Democratic Party of Socialists dismissed Bulatovic's claims as an "attempt to try to find an excuse for defeat."
Serbia-Montenegro was the last union between republics of the former Yugoslav federation after it collapsed in a series of bloody wars in the 1990s.