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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 17:04 GMT
Ex-rebel leader elected Kosovo PM
Ramush Haradinaj
Ramush Haradinaj led KLA units in the insurgency against Serb rule
A former rebel commander who has been questioned by United Nations war crimes investigators has been elected prime minister by Kosovo's parliament.

Ramush Haradinaj, an ethnic Albanian who led Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) units, won by a vote of 72 to three.

The decision is expected to anger the Serbian government, which wants him to be indicted for war crimes.

Mr Haradinaj has twice been questioned over his role in the 1998-1999 rebel insurgency against Serb rule.

It is alleged that KLA units under Mr Haradinaj's command murdered moderate Albanians and Serbs living in Kosovo, which is now under international supervision.

He denies any wrongdoing.

My government in the next term will be engaged in the realisation of the demands of the international community for the implementation of democratic standards in Kosovo
Ramush Haradinaj
European Union officials had advised against appointing him prime minister. The EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, suggesting someone who may have to go to The Hague "may not be the most appropriate person".

But Mr Haradinaj won parliament's approval as part of a coalition deal that secures a second term as president for Ibrahim Rugova.

Accepting his appointment, Mr Haradinaj told parliament: "My government in the next term will be engaged in the realisation of the demands of the international community for the implementation of democratic standards in Kosovo."

In a statement, he added: "Over the past two decades our country has faced many tragedies and few families - whatever their ethnic origin - have been left unscathed. Personally, I have lost two brothers in the fighting, wounds that are still raw and will never completely heal.

"But I am proud of the part that I played in protecting my people... and I am ready to defend my record against criticism and innuendo."

Security concerns

But his appointment has prompted criticism from Belgrade.

"This is confirmation of the fact the UN administration is hostage to the radical elements in Kosovo," said Dusan Prorokovic, a party colleague of Serbia's nationalist Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica.

Correspondents say his appointment comes at a sensitive time for the province. The recent elections saw a massive boycott by the minority Serb population, who believe their security concerns are being ignored by Albanian leaders and the international community.

Most of the Serb representatives elected at the time are now boycotting the assembly.

And with final status talks on the future of Kosovo possibly beginning next year, Belgrade was not expected to welcome the appointment of a former Albanian rebel leader in the run-up to such crucial negotiations.

Charge threat

The BBC's south-east Europe analyst, Gabriel Partos, says the immediate problems Mr Haradinaj faces ahead of these talks would be dwarfed by the difficulties that could arise if he were to be charged by The Hague tribunal.

If he went to The Hague voluntarily, it would mean a search for a new prime minister - and the loss of precious time in the run-up to next summer's UN review.

If Mr Haradinaj refused to go, attempts by the multinational K-For peacekeepers to apprehend him could lead to potentially serious incidents since Mr Haradinaj has a loyal following, particularly in western Kosovo.

Our correspondent says the UN in Kosovo must be hoping that Mr Haradinaj is not charged - but they may have a tense few weeks before UN prosecutor Carla Del Ponte announces her final batch of indictments.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Some suggest that he was involved in war crimes



SEE ALSO:
Timeline: Kosovo
10 Nov 04 |  Country profiles
Regions and territories: Kosovo
02 Dec 04 |  Country profiles


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