Serbian MPs have narrowly approved a declaration condemning the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in a bid to distance the country from the past warmongering under Slobodan Milosevic.
The declaration that offers sympathy and apology to the victims was passed with a slim majority of 127 votes after a debate that underscored persisting divisions in the country over Serbia's role in the 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 says.
The document was put forward by the ruling pro-Western 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 debate.
EU officials have told Belgrade leaders they must break away from Milosevic's policies if they want to move closer to the bloc.
But nationalist MPs 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. Velimir Ilic, another opposition MP, asked: "Why do you want to put a mark on the future generations that they will never wash away?"
In Sarajevo, Bosniak victims also said they were unhappy with the declaration because it failed to call the killings genocide, in accordance with rulings by international courts.
The declaration also says Serbia must arrest ex-Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic who was charged with genocide by a UN court for orchestrating the Srebrenica massacre. It calls for the arrest of Mladic and urges authorities to do all they can to find him even as some nationalist deputies called him a "Serbian hero" during the debate.