Serbia swears in new government led by Milosevic ally

Incoming Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic addresses parliament in Belgrade, 26 July Ivica Dacic leads a three-party coalition

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A new coalition government dominated by nationalists and socialists and led by an ally of the late Slobodan Milosevic has been sworn in in Serbia.

Ivica Dacic, a former spokesman for Milosevic, said Serbia wanted peaceful reconciliation with its neighbours.

He also promised to tackle the "very difficult" economic situation by seeking foreign investment.

The reformers who ousted Milosevic 12 years ago are largely now back in opposition after years in power.

Analysis

The new authorities in Serbia contain many faces which seemed to have gone for good 12 years ago, when Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist government was toppled by demonstrations, in the wake of an election in which they refused to acknowledge defeat.

The Socialists are now back at the top, coming a good enough third in the May elections to play the role of kingmaker. The single biggest party, the Progressives, are content with a selection of key ministries and the post of president.

The third party in the coalition is the United Regions of Serbia - containing the last traces in power of the broad coalition of parties which ended Milosevic's rule in 2000.

The new government's first priority will be to tackle Serbia's burgeoning economic problems. Despite their sometimes nationalist rhetoric, and fears of a resurgent Serbia among some of their neighbours, their foreign policy is expected to change little from that of the previous, Democratic Party-led government.

However, Mr Dacic has sought to dispel concerns he will turn back the clock for Serbia and says EU membership will remain a key goal.

"Our goal is the acceleration of the process of European integration with a maximum effort to get a date for the start of EU accession talks," he told parliament in the capital, Belgrade.

"Serbia wants to be a factor of peace and stability in the region... all outstanding issues should be resolved peacefully.

"Serbia is extending its hands in reconciliation with everyone. We will not concern ourselves with the past; let's concern ourselves with the future."

Serbia received EU candidate status in March and must show commitment to peaceful relations with its breakaway territory of Kosovo to proceed with its bid.

The new prime minister said Serbia would not recognise Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence but would respect agreements reached in EU-brokered talks with the ethnic Albanian authorities there, which began last year.

His Socialist Party is a junior partner in the coalition, which is dominated by the Progressive party of Tomislav Nikolic, the nationalist who ousted reformer Boris Tadic as president of Serbia in the May election.

The coalition's second-biggest member is the technocratic United Regions of Serbia, led by Milosevic opponent Mladjan Dinkic, who is the new finance minister.

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