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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March, 2005, 08:44 GMT
Kosovo ex-PM denies Hague charges
Ramush Haradinaj arrives for his initial appearance at the Hague tribunal
Haradinaj was the KLA's commander in western Kosovo
Kosovo's former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at The Hague tribunal.

Mr Haradinaj, 36, is accused of atrocities against Serbs, Roma and ethnic Albanian alleged collaborators during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

He was a senior leader in the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the war.

He surrendered to the court last week, saying he would prove his innocence.

Mr Haradinaj could face life imprisonment if convicted of any of the charges.

'Criminal enterprise'

"Not guilty," Mr Haradinaj replied to each of the 37 charges as he made his initial appearance at The Hague, after surrendering last week.

Prosecutors say he controlled an area in western Kosovo where he mounted a systematic campaign to drive ethnic Serbs out of the area.

Mr Haradinaj is accused of planning and overseeing operations that led to murder, rape, abduction and persecution during the conflict.

Two of Mr Haradinaj's former aides, Lahi Brahimaj and Idriz Balaj, also turned themselves into the tribunal last week.

They are named in the same indictment and are also charged with murder, persecution, deportation and rape.

The indictment said the three had engaged in a "joint criminal enterprise", which amounted to the "unlawful removal of Serb civilians" from their area of command, Dukagjin.

It said the accused bore overall responsibility even though they may not have participated in some of the abuses with which they are charged.

'Making sacrifice'

Mr Haradinaj is considered a hero by many Kosovo Albanians.

Announcing his resignation last Tuesday, he urged calm in the UN-administered Serbian province, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians.

"I have been called upon to make a sacrifice, something I never believed would happen," he said.

The Kosovo conflict ended when Serb forces were driven out by a Nato bombing campaign. The UN now runs the province.

Nato has deployed an additional 1,000 troops in the province to bolster the Nato-led Kosovo Protection Force (K-For) mission, amid reports that ethnic Albanians would hold protests.

Ramush Haradinaj appears in court in The Hague

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