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Ex-Enemy Croatia Pledges Support For Serbia EU Bid

Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic (right) with his Croatian counterpart Ivo Sanader
BELGRADE (Reuters) -- Croatia pledged to support Serbia's bid to join the European Union despite a pending genocide suit against its former foe.

"As a future NATO member and as a country that is very close to EU membership, Croatia will give full support to its neighbors," Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said. "We believe that we are better off, if our neighbors are better off."

The difficult relationship between Croatia and Serbia was further strained after Croatia recognized the independence of Serbia's former province of Kosovo in 2008.

In 1999 Croatia filed a genocide suit against Serbia before the International Court of Justice over its role in the 1991-95 war, when Belgrade backed secessionist Serbs fighting the Zagreb government. Serbia has threatened a countersuit.

Sanader said both countries should not "forget the past, but not continue to live in it."

Serbia's EU bid is on hold until it arrests Bosnian Serb wartime General Ratko Mladic, indicted for genocide by the UN war crimes court. Mladic is believed to be hiding in Serbia.

Croatia's own EU bid has been delayed over a border dispute with Slovenia, the only former Yugoslav republic to join the EU. The row could delay Croatia's NATO entry, planned for April.

Serbia's Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said that Croatia and Serbia would continue to work to resolve their disputes.

"Some questions will be solved quickly, while others will start to settle in the future through constant improvement of relations," he said.