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Serbian Defence Minister on Military Service, NATO

Belgrade | 25 January 2010 | Bojana Barlovac

Serbia's minister of defence Dragan Sutanovac has announced that compulsory military service will be suspended and the professionalisation of the Serbian Army be completed next year.

In an interview with the daily Blic, Sutanovac expressed his belief that the country's president Boris Tadic will be in a position to suspend compulsory military service based on a report given by the defence ministry.

"I can promise that my team and I shall do everything to finalise that process by the end of the year," the daily quoted the minister as saying.

According to the plan, the Serbian army would have a staff of 36,000 professionals, 28,000 of whom will be in the army and 2,000 in training.

Speaking on the initiative to hold a referendum on Serbia's NATO membership that was launched earlier this month, Sutanovac said it is an emotional debate that "has nothing to do with reality."

"Personally, I expected a better argued performance of the eurosceptics, but instead it all came down to a modest analysis of the past with no selfcriticism," Sutanovac said.

When asked whether Serbia should join NATO one day, the minister said that membership in Partnership for Peace is enough for the moment. He added that a serious analysis of the effects of membership has yet to be received.

‘We must not do anything that would harm our struggle for the preservation of territorial integrity of our country, but NATO as an organisation has not recognised Kosovo," he pointed out.

When asked to comment latest claims by outgoing Croatian President Stjepan Mesic that he would use the army against Bosnian Serb secession, Sutanovac said that it should not affect relations in the region, but "it shows that Mesic is the cause of shaken relations between Belgrade and Zagreb."