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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 13:48 GMT
Kosovo elects first president
Ibrahim Rugova
Rugova has failed three times before to be elected
Kosovo's new assembly has chosen the pacifist Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova as the province's first president


We will jointly work for a free, democratic, peaceful, prosperous and independent Kosovo

Ibrahim Rugova
The vote comes after Mr Rugova's party finally agreed a power-sharing deal with the other main ethnic Albanian parties last week, four months after a general election.

This was Mr Rugova's fourth attempt to be elected.

A former field surgeon of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Bajram Rexhepi was elected prime minister.

The assembly also approved the appointment of a 10-member cabinet.

Independence ambitions

The vote was passed 88-3. Afterwards, deputies stood to applaud their new president and prime minister.

Bajram Rexhepi
Bajram Rexhepi's party grew from the ranks of the KLA
The new government splits power between Mr Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo, which has the largest number of seats in the assembly, and its rival Democratic Party of Kosovo, which came second in the elections.

"This is a good day for Kosovo," said the UN's chief administrator, Michael Steiner. "These are men who will work for the interests of Kosovo and I think they are united in bringing Kosovo forward".

Mr Rugova said he would work to make Kosovo safe for all its people.

"We will work on the integration of ethnic groups into the political economic and social life of Kosovo," he said.

He said that his ultimate goal was an independent Kosovo.

But the status of Kosovo - which is still a province of Yugoslavia - is off the official agenda for now.

The assembly does not have the power to debate, let alone decide, Kosovo's future status during its three-year term.

Rebuilding

Mr Rugova led the pacifist movement resisting the oppressive rule of Slobodan Milosevic in the 1980s and helped create an underground government which provided health care and education for the Albanians.

Now he will preside over a government set up with the blessing of the United Nations, which has begun transferring powers of self-administration to the people's newly elected representatives.

The government's task will be to rebuild the province's ruined social, education and health services, as well as economic infrastructure.

All its decisions are also subject to a veto by the UN administrator.

Serbian fears

The power-sharing agreement was an early success for Mr Steiner, who took up the post last month.

One of his many challenges is to ensure a more than symbolic place in the new administration for Kosovo's beleaguered Serb minority.

They have only one of 10 new ministries.

The priority for the Serbs, however, is increasing their security among ethnic Albanians who are still fiercely hostile to their presence.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Head of UN operation in Kosovo, Michael Steiner
"You should not expect everything to go smoothly ...this is a first step"
See also:

14 Feb 02 | Europe
Kosovo's unconventional new chief
10 Jan 02 | Europe
Kosovo fails to elect leader
19 Nov 01 | Europe
New dawn for Kosovo
04 Feb 00 | Europe
Analysis: Protecting the Serbs
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