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Serbian prime minister decries UN tribunal as 'political'

The Hague war crimes court has failed to bring reconciliation, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says, in reference to the Karadzic and Seselj verdicts. At the same time, Vucic vowed to fight extreme nationalists.

The UN court was close to ending its "political, rather than legal role," Prime Minister Vucic said at a press conference on Friday.

Vucic addressed the reporters just a day after the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia cleared his one-time mentor Vojislav Seselj of war crimes charges. Two days ago, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was

found guilty

of genocide and sentenced to 40 years.

The two were tried for their role in the series of bloody wars after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Mentor versus strongman

Vucic accused the court of "hammering nails into the Balkan coffin" and failing to bring reconciliation between the warring parties.

Serbien Tomislav Nikolic und Aleksandar Vucic Parteitag mit Seselj T-Shirt

Serbian President Nikolic wearing a shirt with image of Seselj in 2004

The trial against Seselj was "extremely political from the very start," he said.

Both the current prime minister and the Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic are former members of Seselj's nationalist Radical Party. The two rose to political prominence under Seselj's wing and supported him from years after he turned himself in to the Hague Tribunal in 2003.

However, Vucic and Nikolic broke off the political alliance in 2008 to launch their Progressive Party and pursue a more pro-Western course. The party is currently the dominant political force in Serbia and at

odds with Seselj.

Looking to election

Seselj's extreme nationalism could improve the Radical Party's ratings ahead of the

snap election.

"We haven't spoken in about eight years," Vucic said at the press conference, answering a reporter's question about his contacts with the firebrand nationalist.

"I have no personal animosity towards him. But we will fiercely fight his policy," Vucic said. "It would be very dangerous for the (extremist) policy to gain majority support."

Serbia attacked like a 'leper'

The prime minister also decried what he sees as a lack of compassion for the Serbian casualties of war, and criticized people who attack Serbia "because they find important for Serbia to be attacked, like a leper."

"We need to understand that our tears are only heeded in Serbia and no place else," he said.

At the same time, he urged the nation to "respect Bosniak and Croat victims," and in this way prove to be greater than "others."

Belgrade would continue to protect the Serb entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia itself, according to Vucic.

"The future must leave no room for legal or political vengeance against Serbs," he said.

Watch video 02:56

Serbian nationalist acquitted of war crimes

dj/tj (AFP, dpa)

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