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%dheadline(Serb lawmakers select new prime minister%)

March 18, 2003

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) _ Serbia’s parliament elected a close associate of assassinated Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic to succeed him Tuesday, and the country’s new leader promised to continue pro-western economic reforms.

Zoran Zivkovic, a leading official in the ruling Democratic Party, won the parliamentary vote 128-100, with three lawmakers abstaining. The other 19 lawmakers in the 250-seat parliament were absent.

Zivkovic promptly pledged to continue Djindjic’s reforms, fight the underworld and bring war crimes suspects to justice.

Meanwhile, Serbian police continued to hunt for Djindjic’s killers, arresting two key suspects and seizing weapons in the home of a slain underworld boss, the government announced Tuesday.

Late Monday, Dragan Ninkovic and Zoran Vukojevic, two key members of an underworld clan blamed for Djindjic’s assassination last week, were arrested. The government described Ninkovic as the leader of a Serbian drug cartel and Vukojevic as a former policeman-turned-criminal.

Ahead of the parliament vote, Zivkovic told the assembly that more than 750 people have been arrested so far and a ``large quantity of arms and explosives″ were discovered during the arrests.

Zivkovic, an entrepreneur who also was mayor of Serbia’s southern city of Nis, was a close ally of Djindjic. He blamed the assassination on organized-crime groups linked to former President Slobodan Milosevic and some current ``political and financial structures.″ He did not elaborate.

Authorities have blamed the underworld Zemun Clan, named after a Belgrade suburb, of being behind Djindjic’s assassination. The group’s leaders remain at large.

The police, following the government-declared state of emergency, can detain suspects for 30 days without charges.

Djindjic was the key figure in toppling Milosevic in a popular uprising in 2000 and engineered Milosevic’s handover to U.N. war crimes court the following year. That, along with his recent declaration of a crackdown on organized crime, made him many enemies.

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