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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 December 2004, 01:44 GMT
World's unease over new Kosovo PM
By Gabriel Partos
BBC's south-east Europe analyst

Ramush Haradinaj
Haradinaj was the KLA's commander in western Kosovo

A former senior guerrilla commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army, Ramush Haradinaj, has been elected prime minister of the United Nations-administered entity, following elections held at the end of October.

Mr Haradinaj - who is the leader of the junior partner in the new governing coalition - is a controversial figure.

Last month, he was questioned by investigators working for the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

Slim-line cabinet

Mr Haradinaj, 36, received the overwhelming endorsement of Kosovo's assembly with 72 votes in favour and only three against.

If, in the end, the prime minister is somebody who has to go to The Hague, he may not be the most appropriate person
EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana

The deputies of the main opposition group, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, abstained from voting.

Their party is being excluded from the new, more slim-line government that's taking over from the broad coalition that ran Kosovo under the UN supervision for the past three years.

The new administration will be made up primarily of two parties - veteran President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo; and Mr Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo - an offshoot of the political successor to the KLA.

As part of the deal, Mr Rugova is to carry on as president, while Mr Haradinaj takes over as head of government.

International unease

It is not a choice that has pleased the international community.

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

Mr Haradinaj is a colourful figure who returned from Switzerland to Kosovo during the Kosovo Albanians' uprising against Belgrade's rule in 1998 and became the KLA's commander in western Kosovo.

Controversy continued to surround him after the war.

Four years ago he and his brother were injured in an incident involving the rival Musaj clan - which resulted in his receiving treatment in a United States army hospital in Germany.

But the reason his appointment is causing unease among Kosovo's international partners has to do with the fact that Mr Haradinaj has twice been questioned by investigators from The Hague tribunal.

The tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, has said that she expects to charge prominent Kosovo Albanian figures as part of her last indictments which are due by the end of this year.

The fact that Mr Haradinaj has been questioned doesn't, of course, mean that he'll be charged.

But the very fact that his case is being investigated has prompted the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, to say that Mr Haradinaj is not the most appropriate person to lead Kosovo.

Difficult task

Kosovo's senior politicians have decided to ignore that and other warnings.

Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (Unmik), Soeren Jessen-Petersen, has said that it's up to Kosovo's democratically elected representatives to pick their prime minister.

Mr Haradinaj is facing a difficult task.

He's got six months to prepare for a planned UN review that will establish how far Kosovo has gone along the road of meeting the required standards of democracy, rule of law and minority protection before talks can begin on Kosovo's long-term status.

It's the fervent hope of Kosovo's Albanians that they will get a positive assessment because they are hoping that subsequent talks will lead to Kosovo's independence.

Meanwhile, Mr Haradinaj's job is being complicated by the fact that the Serb minority overwhelmingly boycotted the October elections - and most of the Serb representatives elected at the time are now boycotting the assembly.

Tough few weeks

Even these difficulties would be dwarfed by the problems that could arise if Mr Haradinaj 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 multi-national K-For peacekeepers to apprehend him could lead to potentially serious incidents since Mr Haradinaj has a loyal following, particularly in western Kosovo.

Unmik must be hoping that Mr Haradinaj is not charged; but they may have a tense few weeks before Ms Del Ponte announces her final batch of indictments.




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


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