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Serbia Urges EU To Stop Setting New Conditions

Serbia's Vuk Jeremic
BELGRADE (Reuters) -- Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic has urged the European Union to stop attaching conditions to Serbia's further progress toward membership in the bloc.

Serbia signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU in April, but the 27-member bloc has put its implementation on hold until fugitive Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic is arrested.

"Let us get out of conditionality and unfreeze the agreement by the end of this year," Jeremic told a forum on Serbia's progress toward EU membership in Belgrade.

In its annual progress report published on November 5, the bloc's top executive body said Serbia could get the candidate status by end 2009 if, among other things, it arrested two remaining war crimes suspects and came up with a "constructive stance towards Kosovo independence."

Serbia had hoped the July arrest of Bosnian Serb war time leader Radovan Karadzic, who is charged with genocide by the UN tribunal in The Hague, would boost its EU aspirations.

But the EU member states said they would insist on the arrest of both Mladic and Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic, before allowing Serbia to make a step forward.

"Some even try to insinuate that Serbia's recognition of Kosovo should be yet another precondition for the candidacy status," Jeremic said. "The time has come to say 'enough is enough.'"

Backed by the EU and the United States, a 90 percent ethnic-Albanian majority in Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February.

Serbia strongly opposes the secession, even though it had lost control over Kosovo in 1999 when NATO bombed the country to halt the killing of civilians in a two-year war.

Serbia and its ally Russia refuse to accept the EU judiciary and police mission set to replace the UN administration in Kosovo unless it is approved by the UN Security council.

Analysts say the issue could become potential hot spot in relations between Serbia and the EU.

United Nations chief war crimes prosecutor Serge Brammertz will arrive in Serbia later in November to give his assessment on the country's progress in war crimes hunt.

His report, expected to be delivered to the UN in December, is the key for Serbia's EU aspirations, set as the top priority by the 5-month old government.