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Biden Offers Serbia 'Strong, New Relationship'

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has offered Serbia what he calls a strong new relationship with the United States.

In Belgrade Wednesday, Biden also said Washington does not expect Serbia to recognize Kosovo's independence as a "precondition" for backing Belgrade's European Union membership.

Biden spoke to reporters in the capital, after talks with Serbian President Boris Tadic.

He promised the United States would use its influence, energy and resources to promote Belgrade's full EU membership, despite stark differences over Kosovo's status.

The former Serbian province declared independence last year, despite strong protests from Belgrade and its traditional ally, Russia. The United States and many Western governments quickly endorsed the Kosovo declaration.

For his part, President Tadic repeated his country's strong opposition to an independent Kosovo. But he also said his government wishes for what he called the best possible relations with Washington.

Biden is the most senior U.S. official to visit Belgrade in almost three decades.

Many Serbians view the United States as anti-Serb, with mistrust stemming from the 1999 U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign aimed at ending the deadly Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

He arrived early Wednesday, following a one-day visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Biden visits Kosovo Thursday, where he meets President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. His one-day visit will include an address to the Kosovo Assembly and a visit to U.S. troops contributing to the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.