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The BBC's Paul Wood in Belgrade
"The former democratic opposition believes it must further consolidate its grip on power"
 real 28k

Friday, 26 January, 2001, 00:18 GMT
Serb Government breaks with past
Zoran Djindjic is applauded by parliamentary colleagues
Man of the hour: Djindjic pledged new start for Serbia
Serbia's newly elected parliament has overwhelmingly approved a reformist government led by Zoran Djindjic, who has called for an "absolute rupture" with the Milosevic years.

Mr Djindjic played a key role in ousting Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whose regime was removed from power following a popular uprising last October.

Belgrade uprising
Last year's popular uprising spelled disaster for Slobodan Milosevic
Serbia's new prime minister said his government's priorities would be to harmonise its laws with those of Europe and win foreign investment for the "socially and economically devastated" country.

He also signalled a crackdown on crime and corruption of the Milosevic era, saying that those behind political assassinations and other crimes would face prosecution.

The government is dominated by reformers from the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) alliance, which crushed Mr Milosevic's Socialist party in December's general election.

The DOS backs the new Yugoslav President, Vojislav Kostunica. The alliance holds 176 seats in the Serbian parliament - more than a two-thirds majority in the 250-seat assembly.

Economic reforms

Mr Djindjic said that those who had committed crimes would "answer before our courts", an indication, say correspondents, that Mr Milosevic and other suspects would be tried in Yugoslavia rather than extradited to The Hague to stand trial before the UN's war crimes tribunal.

Slobodan Milosevic
Slobodan Milosevic: Yugoslavia and UN wrangling over his fate
UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte, who has just ended a visit to Belgrade, is insisting that Mr Milosevic will stand trial in The Hague. But political leaders including Mr Djindjic and Mr Kostunica, have rejected her appeals so far.

Mr Djindjic also stressed the need for urgent economic reform, saying Serbia was the last in Europe in terms of living standards, security, technology and infrastructure.

He said he aimed to prepare the country to join the European Union in "10 years at the latest". The BBC's Paul Wood in Belgrade says this target is unrealistic, but ordinary Serbs want to hear that there will be foreign investment and good jobs, and that Serbia will no longer be excluded from the European mainstream.

The new prime minister also called in his speech for a reform of the Yugoslav Federation, which comprises Serbia and the independence-minded Montenegro.

"We propose to Montenegro to redefine its relations with Serbia - to reform the existing state instead of making two new ones," he said.

'Empty promises'

While the DOS's overwhelming majority will enable the government to see through its reforms, it faces vocal opposition in the form of pro-Milosevic legislators.

They were instrumental in delaying the inauguration ceremony until late on Thursday night.

Branislav Ivkovic, a Socialist deputy, accused the DOS of a "lynching campaign" against the former government and of being "too servile" to the West.

Ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj said that Mr Djindjic's economic reform plans were "empty promises".

However Mr Djindjic stressed that he intended to break with more than five decades of authoritarian rule.

"It will be the first time in 60 years that Serbia has a democratic parliament and will have a truly democratic government," he said.

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See also:

26 Dec 00 | Europe
Analysis: Serbia votes for change
25 Jan 01 | Europe
War crimes chief defiant
22 Dec 00 | Europe
Serbs promised international aid
08 Dec 00 | Europe
Yugoslavia seeks missing millions
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