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Serbia to launch EU membership bid: PM

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(BELGRADE) - Serbia has decided to apply for European Union membership, Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said on Saturday, hopefully before the end of the year.

"The Serbian government has decided... to apply to join the EU," Cvetkovic told journalists. "We are now waiting for Sweden to tell us when this candidacy can be officially put forward."

Sweden holds the rotating EU presidency until December 31, after which it will handed over to Spain.

Belgrade said last month it would apply to join the bloc, but debate had been ongoing over the timing of the application.

Serb President Boris Tadic said that his country's candidacy had been discussed with officials from the 27-member bloc.

"A large majority of our European partners support us for putting forward our candidacy," Tadic said. "This is a great day for Serbia and its citizens. I'd like to congratulate Serbian citizens."

Tadic said that following Saturday's decision "no one can doubt the road that Serbia has taken: Serbia is going towards European integration."

Support for Serbia's bid among EU countries is mixed at best, according to a European diplomat, with backing from Greece and Italy but several key members -- among them Britain and the Netherlands -- more reserved.


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