"I'm on my knees," President Tomislav Nikolic told a television interviewer. "I am on my knees and asking for a pardon for Serbia for the crime that was committed in Srebrenica.
"I apologize for the crimes that any individual has committed in the name of our state and our people." The contrite statement by Nikolic, once a disciple of the Greater Serbia ideology that fuelled the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, marked a sharp change of tone that could help the slow process of reconciliation between Serbia and Bosnia as they edge towards a common goal of European Union membership. Serbia's relations with its neighbours are under close scrutiny from the EU, which gave it a tentative green light on Monday to start accession talks this year.
Some 8,000 Muslim men and boys died in Srebrenica, a former U.N. "safe haven" that fell to Bosnian Serb forces under wartime commander Ratko Mladic. The victims were rounded up, executed and bulldozed into pits over five days in July 1995.
Although Nikolic didn't directly qualify the events as genocide, during the interview he stated, "Genocide must be proven." But he added that "everything that happened during the wars of the former Yugoslavia had the characteristics of genocide".
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