Nationalist Nikolic sworn in as Serbia's president

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Associated Press

Posted on May 31, 2012 at 8:32 AM

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Former nationalist opposition leader Tomislav Nikolic was inaugurated as Serbia's new president Thursday, opening a period of political and economic uncertainty for the troubled Balkan country.

Nikolic, who claims to have shifted from being staunchly anti-Western to turning pro-European Union, was sworn in for a five-year term in at an inaugural session of Serbia's new Parliament.

Nikolic defeated his predecessor Boris Tadic in the presidential election in May, and Nikolic's Progressive Party won the largest number of seats in the 250-member assembly.

But because Tadic's pro-EU Democrats have more allies in the parliament to form the next government, Nikolic may be forced to propose Tadic as the next prime minister — a position more powerful than the presidency.

In his inaugural speech, Nikolic indicated that his political cohabitation with Tadic won't be that easy.

"Serbia is a country shaken by heavy crisis," Nikolic said, and blamed former Tadic's government for crime, corruption and economic mismanagement.

"I want a different Serbia," Nikolic said. "Serbia which is free of fear for its future, with its doors opened to both the West and the East."

Several thousand Nikolic's supporters greeted him with cheers and applause in front of the parliament in downtown Belgrade, but booed and jeered Tadic as he entered the building for the inauguration.

The EU has urged Nikolic to pursue the course to membership like his predecessor, and to continue to seek reconciliation with Kosovo, the former ethnic Albanian-dominated province which declared independence in 2008.

"I want Serbia to become an EU member, but this is a long road mostly due to the mistakes of the previous government, the corrupt state," Nikolic said in an interview with Vecernje Novosti newspaper. "The EU is important to me, but Serbia is even more important."

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Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed.

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