Serbia's lawmakers narrowly approved a declaration condemning the 1995 Serb massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica.
The declaration that offers sympathy and apology to the victims was passed on Tuesday with a slim majority of 127 votes in the 250-seat parliament. The passage came after a daylong debate that underscored persisting divisions in the country over Serbia's role in the 1990s' conflict.
"The National Assembly of Serbia harshly condemns the crime committed against the Bosniak residents of Srebrenica in July 1995 … expressing condolences and apology to the victims' families because not all was done to prevent this tragedy," the declaration said.
The document was put forward by the ruling coalition, which said it would help regional reconciliation and Serbia's effort to become a member of the European Union.
"We will clear the face of the nation with this declaration," ruling coalition deputy Jelena Trivan said during the daylong debate.
Apology pleases no one
Nationalist lawmakers rejected the Srebrenica declaration as "shameful" and "unjust." They insisted fewer people were killed in Srebrenica and denied Western accusations of mass executions.
"Serbia will sign its own guilt with this declaration," said Slobodan Samardzic, a nationalist deputy.
In Sarajevo, Bosniak victims also said they were unhappy with the declaration because it failed to call the killings a genocide, in accordance with rulings by international courts.
"Genocide was committed," said Sabra Mujic, whose husband was killed in Srebrenica. "As long as we are alive, we will pass on to the future generations that it was genocide."
The execution of Srebrenica's men and boys by Bosnian Serb troops was Europe's worst carnage since the Second World War. It has become a symbol of the atrocities of the Balkan wars.
Serbia also must arrest Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander who was charged with genocide by a UN court for orchestrating the Srebrenica massacre.
The parliamentary declaration on Srebrenica calls for the arrest of Mladic and urges authorities to do all they can to find him.