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Serbia's New Pro-Western President Takes Office - 2004-07-11

Boris Tadic was inaugurated Sunday as Serbia's president, promising to help bring stability to the Balkan republic and to bring it closer to the European Union.

Taking the oath of office, the 46-year-old Mr. Tadic told parliament and representatives from 40 nations that he would be the president of all citizens of Serbia, as part of his efforts to create a more democratic and multi-cultural society following a decade of Balkan wars and years of international isolation.

Serbia's new president also made clear he intends to continue the reformist legacy of the late Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, who was assassinated last year in Belgrade.

Mr. Tadic told VOA earlier that he was also prepared to start status talks on the future of Kosovo, the Serbian province where ethnic Albanians are seeking independence.

Speaking Sunday, the new president said Serbia's intentions are "to join the European Union," which he views as the best way to "provide a better life for people."

A former foreign policy advisor to former Prime Minister Djindjic, Ivan Vejvoda, said Mr. Tadic's Western contacts would help to achieve this goal.

"There has been a very close cooperation between Boris Tadic, our new president, when he was minister of defense during the previous year, where he achieved significant results in the reform of the military," he said.

Some analysts expect that under President Tadic, more alleged war criminals will be transferred to the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague. These include Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general linked to Europe's worst atrocity since the Second World War, in the deaths of nearly 8,000 Muslims in the town of Srebrenica in 1995. The ninth anniversary of the massacre was commemorated Sunday in Srebrenica.

However, the director of the independent Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Sarajevo, Nerma Jelacic, expects that Belgrade will try to avoid the extradition of four other generals sought by the Tribunal.

"The four generals who they are refusing to give up at the moment, they may trade in Mladic for them. So, that is the hope that Mladic will end up in The Hague, in return for the other four to be tried in Belgrade," said Ms. Jelacic.

Mr. Tadic is expected to receive backing for his intention to support the U.N. tribunal from Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who recently suggested he had changed his mind about cooperation with the institution he long considered to be anti-Serbian.

Although the post of president is largely ceremonial, it is seen as crucial to promoting domestic stability and Serbia's international image abroad.