Serb Leader Warns of Isolation

BELGRADE -- Serbia's pro-Western president, who faces a strong ultranationalist challenge in a runoff vote, said Monday that the Balkan nation had a stark choice -- move closer to the European Union, or back to isolation.

Results of the Sunday's first round in the presidential election gave Radical Party leader Tomislav Nikolic, an ally of late autocrat Slobodan Milosevic, a slight edge over President Boris Tadic.

The state electoral commission said Monday that Nikolic won about 40 percent of Sunday's vote, while Tadic had 35 percent, forcing a Feb. 3 runoff.

Tadic said the vote would determine whether Serbia moves closer to the EU or sinks back into isolation similar to that of the 1990s era of Milosevic. The former Yugoslav president died in 2006 before his genocide trial at a United Nations war crimes tribunal could be completed.

"Every party in Serbia, every politician, has a clear choice: a European road, or a non-European road," Tadic said. "We all know that Nikolic did not want to take Serbia to Europe" when his Radicals ruled with Milosevic, he added.

An observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe concluded Monday that the elections were conducted fairly.

Populist Velimir Ilic placed third with about 7 percent, followed by Socialist Party official Milutin Mrkonjic with about 6 percent. The anti-Western policies of those two candidates are much closer to Nikolic's, who is likely to pick up most of their votes, analysts say.