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Deal Finally Agreed For Pro-Western Serbian Government

President Tadic celebrates his election win in May
The Socialist Party of late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic has announced a coalition deal with the pro-Western alliance led by the Democratic Party.

The Socialists had contemplated coalition deals on both sides of Serbia's ideological divide following the May 11 parliamentary elections.

But in the end, they were nearly unanimous in their decision to join forces with the pro-Western alliance forged by Serbian President Boris Tadic.

"With 258 members of the main board of the Socialist Party present, the decision was made to join the Tadic coalition, with only 11 people against and two abstaining," Socialist Party head Ivica Dacic said in announcing the decision late on June 23.

"Certainly this was a hard decision, but the time had come to make it," he added. "It's easy to say that you don't want to cooperate with people with whom you don't always share opinions. But in a way, we made our decision to go with Tadic's party even in 2004, when we supported the democratic government of that time."

The deal, which has yet to be confirmed by Tadic, appears to put to an end to more than a month of negotiations over Serbia's political future.

Tadic's Democrats finished first in the May 11 vote, but failed to get a majority in the 250-seat parliament.

That sparked a flurry of negotiations and stalemate among the country's parties. It also prompted speculation that the second- and third-place finishers, the nationalist Radicals and the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) of outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica -- united in their opposition to Brussels' general backing of Kosovo's independence declaration earlier this year -- would tempt the Socialists into an anti-integrationist, more pro-Russia coalition. Such a deal seemed especially likely after the three parties struck a coalition deal to name the Belgrade mayor.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has said he is waiting for a formal announcement of the national coalition deal from President Tadic. But Rehn expressed hope that Serbia would now be free to progress along a pro-European path.

It has yet to be seen what incentives Tadic may have offered the Socialists -- who have been largely dormant since Milosevic's ouster in 2000. But Vuk Stankovic, a Belgrade-based analyst, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service that Tadic has been forced to compromise some of his political beliefs for the sake of maintaining a coalition.

"The second thing presented in this calculation is the fact that huge concessions were made at the national level to force the Socialist to reconsider their deal with the Radicals at the city level," Stankovic says. "When it comes to Tadic's attitude, it's the same as before -- at a time when the former government was formed, Tadic resigned under pressure and let Kostunica run the government. But a lot of what we are seeing now is not the result of Tadic's personal opinions and the policy of his party. It's the result of the circumstances in which this negotiation is taking place."

Officials close to the negotiations say a government may now be in place by the end of June. A decision on prime minister may come as early as June 24. Two outgoing Democratic officials, Finance Minister Mirko Cvetkovic and Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, have been named as possible candidates.

RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service contributed to this report