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Djindic Successor Pledges to Continue Reform - 2003-03-18

Serbia's parliament has elected the successor of the assassinated Prime Minister Zoran Djindic. Zoran Zivkovic was elected amid news that hundreds of people have been arrested as the hunt for the killers continues.

A majority of 128 deputies in the 250-seat legislature voted in favor of a government headed by Zoran Zivkovic.

The 42-year-old politician, a former Yugoslav Interior Minister, has long been viewed as a pro-Western ally of the slain prime minister.

Speaking in parliament, Mr. Zivkovic made clear he wants to continue on the path of reform of his predecessor.

He also revealed that police hunting the killers have so far detained more than 750 people. They include Serbia's famous pop star Svetlana Raznatovic, known as "Ceca", the widow of a notorious warlord who was killed in a gangland style attack in the lobby of Belgrade's Inter-Continental Hotel in 2000.

The singer has been accused of sheltering key leaders of the Zemun clan, which was linked to last week's assassination. Mr. Zivkovic pledged Tuesday his government would continue with tough measures against those who, he said, are trying to destabilize the country.

However, United Nations Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has noted that fighting organized crime in Serbia is not without risks.

In an interview published Tuesday, Ms. Del Ponte said the late Prime Minister Djindjic recently told her he expected to be killed because of his tough measures against groups that are believed to have ties with war crimes suspects.

The new government, which has declared a state of emergency, earlier suggested that gangster bosses linked to the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic, ordered the assassination, in a bid to create chaos.

Analysts say the new prime minister will now have the difficult task of convincing concerned foreign investors and western governments that stability is returning to Serbia, in order to get their help to keep the country's economy and reforms going.