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Serbian Minister: Serbia Committed to EU Integration

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic says his country is committed to European Union integration despite disagreements with the bloc on Kosovo's independence.

Jeremic Saturday had an informal meeting with 27 EU foreign ministers in Slovenia. He told reporters after the meeting that Belgrade is ready to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement, which is a key step toward EU candidacy.

He urged his EU counterparts to launch visa-free travel between their countries and Serbia as soon as possible. EU leaders have offered the privilege for Serbian citizens in a welcoming gesture.

Jeremic also said Belgrade is close to capturing a top fugitive war crimes suspect, former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic. The capture of General Mladic is a key condition for Serbia's EU entry.

The Serb official did not meet with Kosovo's prime minister, who talked with EU officials later in the day.

Kosovo and its 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia on February 17. More than 30 nations have offered recognition, including the United States and most EU nations. Belgrade has responded by withdrawing its ambassadors from those countries.

The EU is trying to convince Serbia to accept Kosovo's independence and move toward full membership in the EU along with other countries in the region.

Jeremic reiterated Belgrade's policy that Kosovo is an inalienable part of Serbian territory. He said Serbia's policy on Kosovo will never change, no matter which government takes over.

Serbia is holding general elections next month following a collapse of the ruling coalition over Kosovo.

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