SALZBURG, Austria (AP) _ Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic primed his republic for possible European Union membership Monday, downplaying political turmoil in Yugoslavia and pledging cooperation in international war crimes trials.
Speaking on the sidelines of the European Economic Summit, being held in Salzburg through Tuesday, Djindjic said EU membership for Serbia might be achieved only through a breakup with Montenegro, the junior partner in the Yugoslav federation.
``I do not love Yugoslavia so much ... that I can't stand the thought that it doesn't exist,'' Djindjic said.
Djindjic said Serbia, the larger of the two remaining Yugoslav republics, would try to develop a concrete plan for EU membership by 2004 and aim to launch accession talks within 10 years.
Although admitting that Yugoslavia might not be able to meet the EU's strict membership rules any time soon, Djindjic said accepting Serbia was in the EU's interest because it would contribute to stability and prosperity in southeastern Europe, a region that has brought war, organized crime and waves of refugees to Western Europe's doorstep.
``It's more expensive to have us outside than to have us inside,'' Djindjic said.
Brushing off the collapse of the Yugoslav federal government as no more important than a ``soccer game,'' Djindjic said the formation of a new Cabinet would do little to change the country's overall landscape.
Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic and his Montenegrin allies in the federal government resigned last week in protest of former President Slobodan Milosevic's extradition to the U.N. war crimes tribunal _ an extradition arranged by Djindjic.
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and other Serb pro-democracy leaders still are jockeying to form a new Cabinet.
Milosevic's handover brought pledges for $1.28 billion in aid from the United States and other Western donors.
Djindjic defended the decision to turn over Milosevic, saying it was part of his government's obligation to confront its past.
Although Djindjic said Serbia would continue to cooperate with international war crimes investigations, he balked at whether Serb authorities would help apprehend Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic.
``It's a problem for international forces,'' Djindjic said. ``Not all problems are our problems.''