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US Expresses Hope for Continued Democratic Reforms in Serbia - 2003-12-29

The United States is expressing hope for a continuation of democratic reforms in Serbia despite the strong showing of extreme nationalist factions in Sunday's parliamentary elections. The State Department said it is likely that parties backing a democratic transition will be able to form the next government.

The ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party won the most parliamentary seats and there was also a strong showing by the Serbian Socialist Party of former President Slobodan Milosevic, who's on trial in The Hague for Balkans war crimes.

But U.S. officials say the collective vote for reform parties was larger than that garnered by the nationalists and they're expressing an expectation that democrats committed to continued reform and integration with the rest of Europe will be able to form a government.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli commended the Serbian people for an election he said had been orderly, and conducted freely and fairly. He said the United States urges that parties that will be in the new parliament to reach a consensus and form a government quickly, in order to continue the reform process begun with presidential elections of October 2000.

Mr. Ereli said parties that represent the democratic transition process were chosen by more than 60 per cent of the Serbian electorate while those espousing "nationalist agendas" garnered only one-third of the vote. He said it is thus likely that any future government will come from the democratic majority. "We certainly expect those parties representing democratic ideals and standards to continue the process of economic, judicial and military reform, as well as support the full implementation of the Dayton agreement, full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, including the arrest and transfer of Ratko Mladic to the ICT for trial, and good relations with neighboring countries, which will allow Serbia and Montenegro to attain full membership in Euro-Atlantic institutions," he said.

Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian-Serb military chief, is one of the most prominent Balkans war crimes figure still at large, along with the former president of the Bosnian-Serb republic, Radovan Karadzic.

Under questioning, Mr. Ereli dismissed the fact that Sloboban Milosevic had nominally won a seat in the new Serbia parliament, saying that the former Yugoslav leader, on trial for genocide and other charges is "otherwise engaged in The Hague."