Serbia political foes formally make up

Pro-European Serbian President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party (DS) and the Serbian Socialist party (SPS) (of the late former president Slobodan Milosevic), formally reconciled on Saturday, four months after agreeing to build a coalition government, reports dpa.

The DS and SPS jointly declared Serbian membership of the European Union as their goal, while - in a reference to the declaration of the former-Serbian province of Kosovo in February - pledging to preserve "the full integrity of Serbia."

"This is a solemn act shaping the values of ... our political intent for the future. With this we wish to pave the way to others ... political reconciliation may lead to national reconciliation," Tadic said after the signing ceremony.

In his words, the DS-SPS declaration was "devoted to the past and the future, because the conflicts of the past threatened to tear the country apart."

SPS leader, Serbian deputy premier and Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said "we're on a common job, we shouldn't look to the past only, but learn from it so Serbia may have a better future."

The Democrats and Socialists agreed in June, six weeks after May 11 elections, to forge a government coalition with the reformist G17 Plus party, and steer Serbia towards the EU.

The poll was forced when the previous cabinet fell in the wake of Kosovo's declaration of secession on February 17.

The deal to form a coalition government averts the prospect of an ultra-nationalist government which may have turned Serbia away from the West over its support of Kosovo's independence.

The formal reconciliation of DS and SPS was delayed as, some media reported, coalition partners haggled over lucrative and influential executive posts in state-run enterprises.

The coalition, which will have a volatile, thin majority in parliament, faces a tough job of restarting the stalled privatization and other reforms, while under pressure of rising inflation and social discontent, now peaking after eight years of slow transition.

DS and SPS leaders saw the need for a formal reconciliation to put behind the political war between the two sides which has dragged on democracy was introduced to Serbia in 1990.

Milosevic and the SPS led Serbia with an iron hand through several conflicts and into economic disaster in the 1990s. A year after Milosevic fell in 2000, the DS leader and prime minister Zoran Djindjic extradited him to The Hague.

Djindjic himself was assassinated in 2003 by rogue policemen who had been in Milosevic's service.

Dacic, himself a top SPS official in Milosevic's time, never denounced the late strongman, though in his reign corruption exploded in Serbia and organized crime virtually overpowered state institutions.

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