A former aide to Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic has taken power as Serbia's new prime minister. Lawmakers in Belgrade backed socialist Ivica Dacic and his cabinet after 12 hours of debate.
Serbian parliamentarians overwhelmingly approved the new government in a 142-72 vote after a night of heated discussion. Socialist leader Dacic made clear he was anxious to put the country's bloody past behind it and set the focus on European integration.
"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," Dacic told parliament during debate in the run-up to the vote. "Serbia is offering the hand of reconciliation, to all. Let's not deal anymore with the past, let's deal with the future."
Dacic's party came third in the May 6 election, but he succeeded in securing the prime minister's position after joining in an alliance with the nationalists from President Tomislav Nikolic's Serbian Progressive Party.
The presence of nationalists in the government in the country of the late Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic has caused alarm in the West. Early in his career, Dacic was a protégé and spokesman for Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial for war crimes during the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s.
On Thursday, when he unveiled his cabinet, Dacic stressed that clearing the path to EU membership was his target.
"Our goal is the acceleration of the process of European integration with a maximum effort to get a date for the start of EU accession talks," he said.
He has also said fighting corruption will be a priority and that recognizing the onetime Serbian republic of Kosovo as a state was out of the question.
ncy/mz (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)