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European Union, Serbia Restart Talks on Closer Ties


The European Union and Serbia have resumed talks on closer ties, ending a 13-month freeze imposed by EU authorities in response to Serbian failure to hand over fugitive war crimes suspects thought to be hiding in the country.

The union agreed to restart the Stabilization and Association Agreement talks - that could lead to Serbia's eventual entry into the 27-nation EU bloc - after the recent arrest of war crimes suspect Bosnian General Zdravko Tolimir.

The accords provide for liberalized trade and expanded political cooperation with EU countries. In the cases of Bulgaria and Romania, those talks led to eventual EU entry.

In Brussels Wednesday, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn praised Serbia for its actions in helping apprehend the fugitive general. He said the renewed talks will result in concrete trade and economic benefits for Serbia.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica called the new talks an opportunity for the Europeans to establish a full partnership with Belgrade - one, he said, that includes recognition that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia.

The Associated Press quoted Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic as saying the successful completion of the talks would give his country access to more than $1 billion in development funding over the next four years.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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