Tadic has until Thursday to formally announce polls on May 11; on Monday Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian prime minister, formally dissolved the coalition government following a deep split in the cabinet over defending Kosovo versus pursuing a place in the EU.

 

"It has been established that the government no longer has united and joint policies'' over Kosovo and Serbia's EU integration, the government said in a statement.

 

New mandate

 

Two-third of EU members have recognised
Kosovo independence [AFP]
"Aiming to establish the functioning of stable state institutions, we propose the dissolution of the parliament and the holding of new elections on May 11, 2008."


Formed in May, the government has lurched from crisis to crisis with Kostunica's party hardening its anti-Western rhetoric and going outside the coalition to seek support in parliament from hard-line nationalists.
 

Tadic, who opposes tying the country's EU membership to the Kosovo issue, says Serbia stands a better chance of fighting for its territorial rights if it is not isolated.

 

His pro-Western Democrats insist on pursuing EU membership even though 18 of its 27 member nations have moved to recognise Kosovo as independent.

 

'Crucial choice' 

 

Olli Rehn, the EU Enlargement Commissioner, said that Serbia has to accept its European future or face "a road to nowhere".

 

"Serbia has a crucial choice to make," Rehn said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. "They can either turn to the European future or risk self-imposed isolation."

 

Sean McCormack, the state department spokesman, said the US does recognise that Kosovo is a difficult issue for Serbia.

 

"We would just suggest to them, as they work through a politically-turbulent time, that they keep their focus on the future, as opposed to the past."