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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Profile: Miroljub Labus
Miroljub Labus
Miroljub Labus - Serbia's economic firebrand

Campaigning under the slogan "Best for Serbia", presidential candidate and economics professor Miroljub Labus has no doubts about the way forward for his country.

Mr Labus - the current Yugoslav deputy premier - says the goal of full EU membership, ideally by 2010, should be Serbia's top priority.

Labus' rise
1947: Born in Mala Krsna, east Serbia
Career: economist, Belgrade University
1993: Deputy head, Democratic Party
1998: Co-founder, G-17 think-tank
He passionately advocates the need to complete Serbia's painful transition to a market economy as a means of boosting the stagnant economy and tackling poverty.

Officially running as an independent, Mr Labus enjoys the patronage of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, a like-minded pro-Western reformer, and is a member of Mr Djindjic's Democratic Party.

His candidacy offers voters a clear alternative to the economically-cautious, moderate-nationalist approach of his main adversary, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica.

Economic credentials

Mr Labus' appeal to young, well-educated and urban voters and his reputation as a sober hard-worker who rises above political squabbling are among his electoral strengths.

I want reform for everyone and not just for a few

Miroljub Labus
On the campaign trail, Mr Labus has highlighted his economic record and his good reputation in the West.

After the fall of former president Slobodan Milosevic he re-established links with the European Union, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

He is the architect of many of Serbia's economic reforms to date and is supported by key economic luminaries, including the governor of the Yugoslav National Bank and the Serbian finance minister.

Mixed reception

Mr Labus has had a mixed reception on his campaign tour.

I want to lead Serbia into Europe, but Serbia as the leading country in the Balkans

Miroljub Labus
He received a warm welcome - complete with the traditional offering of bread and salt - in his home town, but was pelted with eggs while campaigning in the rural town of Cacak. He has had some difficult encounters with ordinary Serbians struggling to make a living.

Aside from the economy, Mr Labus says UN resolutions on Kosovo must be observed.

He argues that Serbia will have more clout in negotiations over the province's status if it becomes a strong and democratic player in the region. An Orthodox Christian, Mr Labus says members of all faiths in the country should be treated equally.

Father figure

Mr Labus was born in 1947 in Mala Krsna, a small town in eastern Serbia. He studied economics and then taught at Belgrade University before entering politics in the 1980s.

A spell on the opposition benches followed, and he became deputy head of the Democratic Party in 1993. In 1998 he co-founded the G-17 group, a non-governmental economic think-tank which criticized Milosevic's policies.

Mr Labus is married with two daughters. His fatherly air and silver-haired appearance have earned him the nickname "Papa" among colleagues.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

25 Sep 02 | Country profiles
18 Jul 02 | Europe
25 Sep 02 | Europe
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