Serbian president takes oath as Kosovo's independence looms

Other News Materials 15 February 2008 13:27 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Serbia's re-elected president Boris Tadic is to be sworn in Friday at a ceremonial, parliamentary session just days before the looming independence of its breakaway province Kosovo is expected to be declared.

Parliamentary speaker Oliver Dulic scheduled the ceremony to swear in Tadic for a second, five-year term after the final results of the February 3 election run-off were announced on Thursday evening.

The pro-European leader of the Democratic Party (DS) narrowly beat ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), in a race seen as a referendum-like vote in which Serbia would decide on either a European future or isolation.

By far the most pressing issue in the campaign was the future status of Kosovo, which is predominantly populated by ethnic Albanians, who demand independence from Serbia.

While both candidates claimed that all measures would be taken to ensure Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo - which Serbs see as the heartland of their religious and national identity - the differences were evident in the potential reactions to its independence.

Nikolic called for the severance of relations with all countries who recognize Kosovo's independence, which the United States and a vast majority of European Union members have already vowed to do.

Tadic, however, campaigned on the notion that Serbia's path to Europe and future within the EU were both irreversible and the nation's top priority.

Kosovo is expected to unilaterally declare independence on Sunday, with Serbia claiming it would "annul" such a decision through its parliament and fight with all available diplomatic and legal means to keep Kosovo under its sovereignty.