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Serbs begin talks on forming new government

Serbs begin talks on forming new government

The president began consultations Monday on forming a new government in Serbia, a process complicated by a U.N. envoy's presentation of a plan for the breakaway province of Kosovo.
President Boris Tadic met with officials from the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, which won the most votes in Jan. 21 elections. Later Monday, he was holding talks with officials of his own pro-Western Democratic Party, which emerged the strongest within a pro-democracy bloc.
The Radicals _ who governed with former President Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s _ sought a government mandate during their meeting Monday, but did not name a candidate for premier, Tadic said in a statement. A candidate must receive majority backing in parliament. There was no indication of how the Radicals planned to secure that majority.
Formation of a moderate bloc _ including Tadic's Democrats and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's center-right Popular Coalition _ has been held up, however, by wrangling over Cabinet posts. Kostunica insists on retaining the premiership, while the Democrats want the top job for their candidate, Western-educated economist Bozidar Djelic.
A compromise among Serbia's political groups could take weeks or months, and is complicated by the upcoming release of a U.N. report on resolving Kosovo's disputed status.
U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari plans to visit Belgrade on Friday to present his proposal to Serb leaders. He then will present the plan to ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosovo's provincial capital, Pristina.
"We never said we were going to wait for a new government" to be formed in Serbia, Ahtisaari spokesman Remi Dourlot said.
Kostunica has insisted the Kosovo talks should wait until a new Serbian government is in place. Saying that, as caretaker premier, he has no mandate to discuss Kosovo's future, Kostunica has vowed not to attend the meetings with the envoy.
His conservative Popular Coalition denounced Ahtisaari's decision to visit Belgrade before a new government was formed. "This seems like Serbia is treated like a colony which will do anything it is told," spokesman Andreja Mladenovic said. "We cannot communicate in such a way."
Kostunica's critics say, however, that his refusal to meet Ahtisaari is only a tactic for delaying the inevitable. Ahtisaari's proposal, revealed to Western and Russian diplomats last week, is widely expected to call for conditional independence for Kosovo.
Tadic has said he would meet Ahtisaari, and his Democrats urged Kostunica to reconsider his boycott of the meetings.
Kostunica and other government officials have accused Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, of being biased toward Kosovo Albanians, who have for decades sought independence and fought a 1998-99 war with Serb forces.
Serbian parties are united in their opposition to Kosovo's secession, and in saying the province should have autonomy but remain within Serb territory. Serbs consider Kosovo to be the heartland of their nation and religion.
The Radical Party has threatened to go to war over the breakaway province. Its staunch opposition to compromise on Kosovo helped it win the highest number of votes in the Jan. 21 ballot, but without an outright majority to govern alone.
"We care about Kosovo in Serbia and nothing else," one party leader Aleksandar Vucic said early Monday.
Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999. The province's ethnic Albanians, who account for 90 percent of its 2 million population, have rejected Serbia's offer of broad autonomy within Serb borders.
Talks last year between the two sides, and mediated by Ahtisaari, were largely inconclusive.


Updated : 2021-06-19 09:26 GMT+08:00