BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbia's parliament approved a declaration Tuesday condemning the 1995 Serb massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, in a bid to distance the country from past warmongering under the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
The declaration passed with a slim majority of 127 votes in the 250-seat parliament, after a daylong debate that underscored persisting divisions in the country over Serbia's role in the 1990s conflict.
"The National Assembly of Serbia harshly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian residents of Srebrenica in July 1995 ... expressing condolences and apology to the victims' families because not all was done to prevent this tragedy," the declaration says.
The declaration was put forward by the ruling pro-Western coalition, which said it would promote regional reconciliation and Serbia's effort to become a member of the European Union.
EU officials have told Belgrade's leaders they must break away from Milosevic's policies if they want to move closer to the bloc.
Nationalist lawmakers rejected the Srebrenica declaration as "shameful" and "unjust." They insisted fewer people were killed in Srebrenica and denied Western accusations of mass executions.
"Serbia will sign its own guilt with this declaration," said Slobodan Samardzic, a nationalist deputy.
Velimir Ilic, another opposition lawmaker, asked: "Why do you want to put a mark on the future generations that they will never wash away?"
In Sarajevo, Bosnian Muslim survivors also said they were unhappy with the declaration because it failed to call the killings a genocide, in accordance with rulings by international courts.
"Genocide was committed," said Sabra Mujic, whose husband was killed in Srebrenica. "As long as we are alive, we will pass on to the future generations that it was genocide."
The execution of Srebrenica's men and boys by Bosnian Serb troops was Europe's worst carnage since World War II. It has become a symbol of the atrocities of the Balkan wars.
The EU also wants Serbia to arrest ex-Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, who was charged with genocide by a U.N. court for orchestrating the Srebrenica massacre.
The parliamentary declaration on Srebrenica calls for the arrest of Mladic and urges authorities to do all they can to find him, even as some nationalist deputies called Mladic a "Serbian hero" during the debate.
Former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic is being prosecuted by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for allegedly masterminding Serb atrocities throughout the Bosnian war, including the Srebrenica massacre.
Karadzic has refused to enter a plea, but insists he is innocent of charges that he ordered atrocities, including the shelling and sniping campaign that killed thousands of civilians in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and the executions in Srebrenica.
In 2009, a European Parliament resolution condemned the Srebrenica massacre as genocide and called on the region to commemorate its July anniversary. The Hague-based International Court of Justice also has ruled that genocide was committed in Srebrenica, and that Serbia had not done enough to prevent it.
Associated Press writer Aida Cerkez-Robinson contributed to this report from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.