Reformists cement hold on Yugoslavian cabinet

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For the first time in 55 years, Yugoslavia has a non-communist dominated government, strengthening the reformist administration of President Vojislav Kostunica.

For the first time in 55 years, Yugoslavia has a non-communist dominated government, strengthening the reformist administration of President Vojislav Kostunica.

The formation on Saturday night of the new 16-member cabinet cemented the electoral victory of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) political coalition, whose sympathisers took to the streets last month to force Slobodan Milosevic to admit his defeat in the country's presidential elections.

DOS now holds nine of the 16 portfolios in the new cabinet, including the key ministries of economics, foreign affairs and the interior. The seven other portfolios, including that of prime minister, are held by the Montenegrin Socialist People's Party (SNP), once a staunch Milosevic ally. The new Yugoslav Prime Minister is Zoran Zizic, 47, who promised to keep following the reformist programme of DOS, "in whom the people put their trust" in the September elections.

The post of Deputy Prime Minister went to Miroljub Labus, 53, an economist who has worked in the United States. He belongs to the think-tank responsible for drawing up the DOS economic programme. The new Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, 37, is a long-time human rights activist, a lawyer by education. He attended last week's ceremony in New York where federal Yugoslavia was readmitted to the United Nations.

Mr Svilanovic told reporters that he expected relations with four big Western powers - the United States, France, Britain and Germany - to be re-established in coming days. The Milosevic government cut all diplomatic ties at the start of the Nato air campaign in March 1999.

Mr Svilanovic backed the idea of opening a Belgrade office of International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY), based in The Hague, which has indicted Mr Milosevic and four of his top aides for war crimes in Kosovo.

He said: "It is correct that [President] Kostunica said that Milosevic's extradition to The Hague was not a priority, but he also said that the ICTY office will soon be opened in Belgrade and that it would be able to investigate whatever it needs to." One of the new government's most important tasks is to have good relations with neighbouring ex-Yugoslav republics, Mr Svilanovic added.

Zoran Zivkovic, 40, mayor of Serbia's third-largest town Nis, became Interior Minister. He promised to put Mr Milosevic behind bars and fight organised crime, adding: "We'll open all the secret police files too."

The programme of the new federal government is essentially the opposite of the Milosevic administration. It calls for swift re-establishment of relations with the major international institutions and pro-market reforms. One of its tasks is to bring Yugoslav legislation into line with EU legislation, in the hope that Yugoslavia will eventually qualify to join the EU.

The federal administration has relatively little power but it does have a leading role in fostering international relations.

The parliamentary session that appointed the new government had to be held in Serbia's parliament building. The federal parliament was damaged during the uprising which toppled the Milosevic regime.