World Bulletin / News Desk
The former spokesman of late war crimes convict Slobodan Milosevic took power in Serbia on Friday, telling Europe and the Balkans to forget the past and not fear the return of a political alliance that once led the country to war with NATO.
After 12 hours of heated debate, lawmakers in the 250-seat Serbian parliament voted 142 to 72 to endorse Socialist Party leader Ivica Dacic as prime minister at the helm of a coalition with nationalists.
The alliance condemns to the opposition benches the main reformers who ousted Milosevic in 2000, raising concern in the West that Serbia might veer from the path they took towards joining the European Union.
Dacic said EU membership was "a key goal", but that he would not be made to answer anymore for Serbia's dark past.
"If they say the word Balkan means 'blood and honey', there's been enough blood, it's time to feel the taste of honey too," the career politician told the assembly during a debate that ran late into the night.
"Serbia is offering the hand of reconciliation, to all. Let's not deal anymore with the past, let's deal with the future."
The West is closely scrutinising Dacic's ascent to the most powerful post in Serbia - in alliance with President Tomislav Nikolic's nationalists - for any sign that the country may drift from the EU path chosen by the seven states carved from old federal Yugoslavia.
Nikolic and the Socialists last shared power at the close of Milosevic's disastrous 13-year rule, when his forces expelled almost 1 million ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and NATO bombed in 1999 to wrest the province from him.
Dacic, 46, was Milosevic's spokesman, railing against the West. He now says Serbia's future is in the EU, but Western diplomats admit to doubts over whether he is willing and able to carry out the political and economic reforms it will take.
His government inherits an economy sliding into recession, a jobless rate of 25 percent and a shrinking, ageing population scraping by on an average net monthly wage of 340 euros ($420).
In a speech that cited economists John Maynard Keynes and Paul Krugman and American industrialist Henry Ford, Dacic dismissed calls for "belt-tightening" at the cost of pensions and pay, saying only economic growth would bring down Serbia's growing debt burden of 55 percent of output.
The West says Serbia's progress towards EU membership rests on it coming to terms with the loss of Kosovo.
Dacic said he was ready to continue EU-mediated talks with Kosovo aimed at "normalising life for all citizens". But Serbia would never recognise it as independent, he said.
The EU says it won't have to, at least explicitly, but it will have to loosen its grip on a Serb-populated slice of Kosovo's north, and stop obstructing the country's development.
That will determine how quickly the EU opens accession talks, after making Serbia a candidate for membership in March. Ex-Yugoslav republic Slovenia joined the EU in 2004. Croatia is next in 2013 and Montenegro began talks last month.
Dacic was interior minister in the last government with the reformist Democratic Party from 2008, until voters punished the Democrats for perceived elitism and an economic downturn.
The new coalition includes the technocrat United Regions bloc, whose leader Mladjan Dinkic becomes finance minister. Trying to settle markets, Dinkic says Serbia will revive a frozen loan deal with the International Monetary Fund.
Diplomat Ivan Mrkic, ambassador in Greek Cyprus under Milosevic at a time when, reformers say, millions of dollars were siphoned out of Serbia via Nicosia, became foreign minister. ($1 = 0.8130 euros)
The latest fatalities from the bombing of a home brought to 2094 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip since July 7.
At least 19 of the 31 ministers are fresh faces, the source said, noting that the new line-up included four Muslim ministers and seven women.
Workers demand that the government address high inflation and protect jobs.
The military is to advise only on the issue of disarmament and demobilization.
The US says Chinese made a "dangerous" and "unacceptable" intercept of a US surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea.
Over the past two days, Sanaa has been at the center of intense protests and sit-ins – called for by al-Houthi – to demand the dismissal of the current government.
The National Council for Human Rights said HRW overlooked a pivotal testimony, namely that of a journalist about the death of a policeman upon the eviction of the square on August 14 last year.
Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement that the ban was a response to visa restrictions that Japan had imposed on a number of Russian citizens
Residents of La Barceloneta, once a small fishing village, have been draping their balconies with banners calling on visitors to respect their sleep and the neighbourhood for years.
Kiev said Russia had launched a direct invasion of its territory by sending the convoy into eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are fighting government forces
Popular politician Imran Khan withdraws his demand that Pakistan's Prime Minsiter Nawaz Sharif resigns.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused Riek Machar, his sacked vice president, of plotting to overthrow his regime.
Men and boys account for the bulk of the deaths but nearly 18,000 women and more than 2,000 children under the age of nine are also among those killed
The security source said at least 30 bodies had arrived at the hospital in the city of Baquba in Diyala province
Russell Brand was forced to speak out against anti-Semitism after receiving death threats and accused to being an anti-Semite for calling for boycotts.
Dutch Foreign Minister called for more Western support for Kurds and relatively moderate rebel factions in Syria involved in an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.