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Serbian Reformer Calls for Even-Handed US Policy in Balkans

Serbia's deputy prime minister and a leading reformer, Bozidar Djelic, Monday sharply criticized US policy in the Balkans as misguided and pro-Albanian. VOA's Barry Wood reports that reformers are under pressure from radical nationalists who could win parliamentary elections due to take place May 11.

Speaking at Washington's Johns Hopkins University, Djelic said Washington's advocacy of Kosovo independence has led to the opposite of the stability that was promised. He said since Kosovo's Albanian majority declared independence in February the governments of Serbia and Macedonia have fallen and new elections are coming.

Some three dozen countries, including the US and most European Union states, have recognized Kosovo's independence.

Saying no Serbian government will ever recognize the independence of Kosovo, which Belgrade insists remains part of Serbia, Djelic called for a renewed US Serbian dialogue over Kosovo.

"Today we are far apart," said Bozidar Djelic. "That of course hurts Belgrade much more than it hurts Washington, but it could also hurt the interests of the United States."

A member of Serbia's pro-western Democratic Party, Djelic and his fellow reformers face the prospect of being ousted by a coalition that could include the nationalist Radical Party as well as the party of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. Djelic says if the Radicals come to power Serbia would likely turn away from wanting to join the European Union, the main objective of the Democratic Party. He said a Radical victory would also jeopardize the economic advances that have been achieved since a popular revolt overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.

Djelic is hoping that US Balkan policy will change once President Bush relinquishes the presidency next January.

"What we would hope that in the months to come, or more probably a future administration, would have a more fact-based policy and a more even-handed [US] policy," he said.

Djelic said the US backed United Nations administration in Kosovo has failed to protect the Serbian minority and has failed to prosecute ethnic-Albanians accused of war crimes. Djelic said the upcoming election is very important and is a choice between European integration and isolation.