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SERBIA FACES CRISIS OVER EU OUTREACH AND KOSOVO

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica on Tuesday attacked plans by his coalition partners to sign an agreement on closer ties with the European Union, plunging the government into crisis and calling its future into doubt.

Kostunica said the political and economic agreement with the EU, which President Boris Tadic wants the government to sign Thursday, would lure Serbia into rubber-stamping independence for Kosovo, a breakaway province.

Kostunica's attack is a direct challenge to Tadic, who was re-elected Sunday after pledging to strengthen ties with the EU regardless of Kosovo's future. It underlined the deep rift in the government between those who want to lead Serbia toward closer ties with Europe and those who argue that Serbia should try to hold on to Kosovo at all costs.

Kostunica appeared to have hardened his stance partly because the EU said Monday that it had approved plans to send a police and judicial mission to take over administration of Kosovo from the United Nations.

Kosovo, which Serbs regard as their spiritual home, has been under U.N. administration since 1999.

"The EU's proposal to sign a political agreement with Serbia while at the same time sending a mission to break apart our state is a deception aimed at getting Serbia effectively to sign its agreement to Kosovo independence," Kostunica said.

Political analysts said Tadic's Democratic Party and its other coalition partner, G17 Plus, technically had enough of a majority within the government to overrule Kostunica and his allies and sign the agreement on closer ties. But the prime minister has moved to call a parliamentary session and still could torpedo the agreement by rallying a majority against it.

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