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Serbians Mark Anniversary of Djindjic Assassination 


Thousands of people have marched through Belgrade to mark the fifth anniversary of the assassination of reformist Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.

Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica separately placed wreaths outside the government building where assassins shot and killed the reformist leader.

Mr. Djindjic, who helped end the rule of president and indicted war crimes suspect Slobodan Milosevic, was Serbia's first democratically elected prime minister since World War II.

A Serbian court last year found two former members of a Serbian paramilitary unit and 10 co-conspirators guilty of assassinating Mr. Djinjic. The killing dealt a major setback to pro-Western reform efforts, leading to the collapse of the Djindjic government.

In a statement today, the U.S. embassy in Belgrade called Mr. Djindjic "a patriot in the truest sense of the word," who faced "bitter nationalist opposition" while working to implement reforms.

Today's commemorations come with Serbia still split between Milosevic-inspired nationalists and reformists, over Kosovo's declaration of independence.

Mr. Kostunica's cabinet has asked President Tadic to dissolve parliament and call new elections, following the declaration by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian government last month.

Mr. Kostunica said last week that the Belgrade government can no longer function because of deep divisions over Kosovo. He has insisted that any agreement on building ties with the European Union specifically recognize Kosovo as part of Serbia.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of France and Sweden, Bernard Kouchner and Carl Bildt, writing in European newspapers, urged the quick expansion of EU-Serbian ties despite disagreements over Kosovo.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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