By Julian Pecquet - 06/28/12 05:53 PM EDT
A former ally of strongman Slobodan Milosevic on Thursday won a mandate to form Serbia's next government, sparking fears of a return to the nationalist tensions that engulfed the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Ivica Dacic, the leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, was formally approved by new nationalist president Tomislav Nikolic, The Associated Press is reporting. Nikolic, who is supported by Russia, defeated incumbent pro-European Union president Boris Tadic last month.
Dacic for his part was a spokesman for Milosevic during the Balkan wars that tore apart Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s. Milosevic was ousted in a democratic uprising in 2000 and subsequently arrested for his role in those wars; he died during his war-crimes trial at The Hague in 2006.
Asked about reports earlier this week that Dacic would get the nod, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that the election of Milosevic allies wouldn't automatically cause a rift with the United States.
“I’m not going to prejudge whatever negotiations might be going on in Serbia,” Nuland said, “but as a general matter, assuming that the government is legitimately formed, then we will obviously work with them, but let’s await what is decided in Serbia.”