Serbian PM Dissolves Government Over Kosovo Deadlock, Calls for New Elections

Serbia's prime minister dissolved the government Saturday and called for new elections after clashing with his pro-Western coalition partners over Kosovo and EU membership.

Vojislav Kostunica said that he will convene a caretaker government session Monday that will propose to parliament that new elections be held May 11.

"The government will function in a reduced capacity until the elections are held," Kostunica said.

"The government, which does not have united policies, cannot function," he told reporters. "That's the end of the government."

The Cabinet, made up of Kostunica's conservatives and pro-Western President Boris Tadic's democrats, was formed in May, following months of strained negotiations in the wake of the last parliamentary elections in January 2007.

The new elections will determine whether Serbia will continue on its path toward the EU and other Western organizations, or return to the international isolation of late strongman Slobodan Milosevic's warmongering era in the 1990s, which is epitomized by Kostunica's hard-line policies.

Kostunica accused pro-Western ministers of failing to support his efforts to preserve Kosovo as part of Serbia.

"There was no united will (in the government) to clearly and loudly state that Serbia can continue its path toward the EU only with Kosovo," Kostunica said.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17. The predominantly ethnic Albanian province had been under U.N. control since 1999, when NATO launched an air war to stop a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

But Serbia, which considers the territory its historic and religious heartland, has rejected Kosovo's move as illegal under international law.

Kostunica insists that EU governments that recognized Kosovo must rescind their decisions before Serbia resumes pre-membership talks with the 27-nation bloc.

Kostunica criticized the EU for "giving the green light to its member states" to recognize Kosovo's secession, and for sending its mission to Kosovo without Serbia's consent.

Tadic opposes tying Serbia's EU membership to the issue of Kosovo, which has been recognized as an independent state by several leading EU nations, including Britain, France and Germany.