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Serbian leader willing to visit Srebrenica

A former nationalist, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has said he would bow his head in respect for the innocent victims of the Srebrenica massacre during a ceremony to mark the event's 20th anniversary.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic expressed his willingness to visit the site of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia to show respect and to mark the 20th anniversary of the mass murder that took place there, he said on Friday.

"As prime minister, I am ready to bow my head to show the stand we take towards the innocent victims of Srebrenica," Vucic said.

Vucic was one of the leading senior members of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party during the Yugoslav war. He once threatened in parliament that 100 Muslims would be killed for every Serb victim in Bosnia. In 2008, however, he broke away from the party, rebranding himself as a pro-Western reformer.

"If Bosniaks want it, if it is not too hard for them ... I am ready to pay my respects to the Muslim and Bosniak victims of Srebrenica," Vucic said. However, according to the news agency AFP, he refused to use the word "massacre" when speaking about events in Srebrenica that left 8,000 people dead.

The massacre of Srebrenica

The massacre in the Bosnian small city of Srebrenica was classified as genocide by the international judiciary.

The victims were mainly Muslim men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 when the designated United Nations "safe area" fell to Bosnian Serb forces.

It was widely regarded as the worst massacre on European soil since World War Two.

Former Serbian President Boris Tadic was present at the 15th anniversary ceremony in 2010, but Vucic is far more closely related to Serbia's nationalist past that caused much of the bloodshed.

Serbia under the pressure from the West

Vucic's attendance at the July 11 ceremony in eastern Bosnia will mark a highly symbolic moment in the Balkan region's recovery and reconciliation after wars that killed some 135,000 people during the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Serbia is under pressure from the West to improve relations with its ex-Yugoslav neighbors if it is to make progress on the road to membership of the European Union.

ra/sms (Reuters, AFP)

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