Balkan Leaders Boycott Serbian Presidential Inauguration

Posted June 11th, 2012 at 5:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Balkan leaders boycotted Monday's inauguration of Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic over his recent controversial remarks about the 1995 massacre of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina's eastern town of Srebrenica.

Only Montenegro's president attended the inaugural ceremonies in Belgrade. The leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia stayed home.

Earlier this month, Mr. Nikolic, a former far-right nationalist, denied that the killing of 8,000 Muslim males by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica was genocide. The International Court of Justice and the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal ruled the Srebrenica massacre fit the legal definition of genocide.

He did call the Srebrenica killings a “grave crime” whose perpetrators must be brought to justice.

Mr. Nikolic also angered Croats by calling the Croatian border town of Vukovar a Serb area to which Croatian refugees should not have been allowed to return. Serb forces heavily bombed Vukovar in the early 1990s.

President Nikolic said in his inauguration speech that differences over the past jeopardize the future of the Balkans. He said those differences will be solved through dialogue.

He also promised to keep Serbia on the path to the European Union, which he called Serbia's road to the future.

Mr. Nikolic won a May 20 presidential runoff election against incumbent President Boris Tadic.

Mr. Nikolic has toned down his nationalist rhetoric in recent years and now regards himself as pro-Western.