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Serbian Political Leaders Face Tough Negotiations on Forming New Government

Serbia's political leaders face tough negotiations on forming a new government, after supporters of pro-Western President Boris Tadic emerged as the largest group in parliament in Sunday's elections.

Unofficial results give the president's Democratic alliance about 39 percent of the vote, while the ultranationalist Radical Party received about 29 percent.

Outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia finished third, with 11 percent, and the Socialist Party of the late, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic won about eight percent.

The election was dominated by sharp differences over Serbia's future, with Mr. Tadic's alliance seeking closer ties with Europe and eventual membership in the European Union. Nationalists, angered by Western support for Kosovo's recent declaration of independence, want to forge closer ties with Russia.

Official results are expected by Friday.

A government must be formed by mid-September, or the country must hold new elections.

Any alliance that can muster a simple majority of 126 seats in the 250-member parliament can govern.

If the unofficial results hold, the pro-Western Tadic coalition would hold at least 103 seats. The pro-Russian Radical Party of Tomislav Nikolic would win 76 seats. However, analysts point out that Radicals and supporters of Mr. Kostunica could in theory join forces with the Socialists for a 126-seat majority that excludes the Tadic coalition.

Mr. Tadic says he expects tough coalition talks. But he said he will not let Serbia return to the isolation of the 1990s, when Mr. Milosevic was president.

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