The Kosovo parliament has elected a 54-year-old law professor, Fatmir Sejdiu, as the province's new president ahead of key UN-sponsored talks.
Sejdiu is a leader of Kosovo's biggest party, the LDK
Mr Sejdiu replaces the late Ibrahim Rugova, the iconic figure who led the non-violent campaign by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority to end Serbian rule.
Mr Rugova died of lung cancer last month. Mr Sejdiu has vowed to continue his push for independence.
Mr Sejdiu was the sole candidate in the parliamentary vote on Friday.
He has been on the presidency of Kosovo's biggest party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), since it was formed in 1991.
Kosovo remains a Serbian province administered by the UN.
Talks on the future status of Kosovo are scheduled to take place in Vienna later this month. They were delayed by Mr Rugova's funeral.
Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90% of the population of Kosovo, hope the talks will lead to full independence from Serbia - an outcome opposed by Belgrade.
Kosovo has been a United Nations protectorate since an armed uprising by ethnic Albanians and a Nato bombing campaign forced Serb forces to pull out of the province in 1999.
Nato intervened to halt a crackdown by Serb security forces on ethnic Albanian civilians, thousands of whom were driven from their homes.
Mr Sejdiu is expected to join the Kosovo Albanian negotiating team at the UN-sponsored status talks.
"I will do my best so that the team of negotiators finishes the
talks successfully in 2006," he said on Friday.
He was elected president in a third round of voting, after two earlier rounds had failed to produce the necessary two-thirds majority among deputies. He was backed by 80 deputies, with 12 against.
Ten seats in the parliament belong to Serb representatives, but they have boycotted the chamber since Serbs were targeted in a wave of violence in Kosovo in March 2004.
"Kosovo's independence is non-negotiable," Mr Sejdiu told the Associated Press.