Sun, Dec 05, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Ex-rebel leader named Albanian prime minister

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , PRISTINA, KOSOVO

Albanian politicians appointed a former guerrilla leader and war crimes suspect as prime minister on Friday in a parliamentary vote.

The appointee, Ramush Haradinaj, was elected by an overwhelming 73-3 vote in a power-sharing agreement between his own party and the largest Albanian political group in the 120-member parliament.

The UN has been responsible for running Kosovo ever since Serbian security forces accused of committing widespread atrocities were forced by a NATO-led bombing campaign to leave the province in June 1999.

Since 2000, a regional government with limited powers made up of Albanian politicians has been in place.

Haradinaj's appointment was widely perceived as a setback among Western diplomats and international officials here, who warned that it could aggravate tensions with the Serbian minority and undermine the province's aspirations to become a separate state. Haradinaj has said he is under investigation by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia for crimes committed during the 1997 to 1999 conflict, and was questioned for two days by court investigators late last month. The chief war crimes prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, has implied that an indictment could be issued for him by the end of the year.

In a statement issued Friday on his behalf by Luther Pendragon, a public relations consultant in London, Haradinaj said he was "proud of the part that I played in protecting my people" from Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian strongman.

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