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Serbian PM Resigns Over Split in Coalition Government on Kosovo

Serbia 's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has announced his resignation and called for early elections. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest that Mr. Kostunica made the announcement late Saturday, following disagreements within his cabinet over whether to establish closer ties with the European Union after Kosovo's declaration of independence.

In televised remarks, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said he had resigned and is calling for new elections.

Mr. Kostunica admitted that he failed to get his cabinet to reject closer ties with the European Union in the aftermath of Kosovo's declaration of independence.

The prime minister has demanded that Serbia cut ties with EU countries that recognized Kosovo's independence. The mostly ethnic Albanian province declared independence from Serbia last month.

Pro-Western politicians within Mr. Kostunica's government and President Boris Tadic say Serbia 's membership in the EU is crucial in helping the country overcome years of hardship following the Balkan wars of the 1990's. They say although Serbia will never give up Kosovo, the issue of EU membership is separate.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Kostunica said he wants Serbian voters to decide their country's future direction. He said a government that has no united policy, especially on Kosovo, cannot function. He said he will propose a general election for May 11.

Mr. Kostunica has made clear he favors turning to Russia which supports Belgrade's effort to keep Kosovo as part of Serbia. But he has denied he is against the European Union.

The prime minister says all parties in Serbia are in favor of entering the EU. However, he says Serbia can only join the EU with Kosovo.

Mr. Tadic, reacting to the announcement, said he will call new elections.

Most Serbs consider Kosovo the historic heart of Serbia. The province had been under international control since 1999 when NATO bombardments forced Serb forces to end their crackdown on the area's Albanian majority.