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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 15:46 GMT
Profile: Zoran Zivkovic
By Gabriel Partos
BBC south-east Europe analyst

Like Zoran Djindjic before him, Serbia's new prime minister, Zoran Zivkovic, is first and foremost a pragmatist.

It is a reputation he won as mayor of the country's third-largest city, Nis, shortly after Nato's air campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999.

Nis was one of the first to accept heating fuel supplies donated by the European Union, but it was a controversial decision.

Zoran Zivkovic
Mr Zivkovic remained loyal to Zoran Djindjic, shunning party infighting
When challenged about accepting this gift from countries that had earlier been bombing Yugoslavia, Mr Zivkovic said Yugoslavs could not afford to wait 15 years to forget the past.

A businessman and member of parliament, Mr Zivkovic became mayor of Nis following the triumph of the opposition Zajedno (Together) bloc in the municipal elections of 1996.

Earlier he had been among the founding members of Mr Djindjic's centrist Democratic Party - and in a party often riven by faction-fighting, he remained a loyal ally of the late prime minister.

Uneasy alliance

He has been one of the four deputy chairmen of the Democratic Party, and Minister of the Interior in the government of the now defunct Yugoslav state.

Mr Zivkovic, 42, will not find it easy to stamp his authority on the new government.

He will have to hold together an uneasy alliance - a slimmed-down version of the 18-party Democratic Opposition of Serbia, which triumphed over former strongman Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists in the elections of 2000.

Since then the alliance has lost a number of its members, most importantly former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia.

Machiavellian qualities

In the absence of support from Mr Kostunica's party, Mr Zivkovic's government will have only a small majority in parliament.

It is by no means certain that it will be able to soldier on until the end of its mandate in a little under two years' time.

To do so, he would have to display many of the Machiavellian qualities Mr Djindjic excelled in - skilful management of the governing alliance, swift demotion or undermining of political opponents and a carefully-calibrated distribution of jobs among allies.

How Mr Zivkovic is likely to fare as leader will depend, in the short term, on the success of the government's crackdown on organised crime.

In the medium term, Mr Zivkovic's objective is to build closer links with the EU - perhaps the only way Serbia can hope to restore its earlier prosperity.

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