Serbia PM Cancels Talks in Protest

Serbia PM Cancels Talks in Protest

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- Serbian Prime Minister-designate Aleksandar Vucic has canceled his visit to Brussels and separate talks with American officials after reports in a pro-government newspaper that the EU and U.S. ambassadors to Serbia are fueling street protests against his rule, the state TV said Monday.

Vucic, a former ultranationalist turned pro-EU reformer, was scheduled to travel later this month to Brussels for the formal opening of EU membership talks and to the U.S. on an inaugural Air Serbia flight to New York where he was to hold bilateral talks with American officials.

The cancellation comes amid increasing pressure by Russia, a traditional Serb Slavic ally, against Serbia joining the EU and NATO. Vucic made an unannounced visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin last month which resulted in calls by Moscow to "include people who are determined to maintain and strengthen further relations between Serbia and Russia" in the new Serbian government.

Vucic's office did not immediately return calls from the Associated Press on official details of the cancellation.

Belgrade's Informer daily, which is close to Vucic and is considered his mouthpiece, said last week that the U.S. ambassador Kyle Randolph Scott and EU envoy Michael Davenport are actively working on "radicalizing" street protests against his rule, trying to trigger "chaos" in the country.

Both the European Commission and Scott vehemently denied they have anything to do with recent street protest by thousands in Belgrade against the shady demolitions in an area of the capital marked for a United Arab Emirates-financed real estate project which is supported by Vucic.

The citizens' protests have become a challenge to Vucic, who faces accusations of autocratic rule despite promising to take Serbia toward EU integration.

Vucic is to meet the U.S. and EU ambassadors later Monday.

(KA)