Mon, Dec 06, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Serbia calls for an annulment of the Kosovo election

AFP , BELGRADE

Serbia called on the UN Saturday to annul the election of former ethnic Albanian rebel commander Ramush Haradinaj as prime minister of Kosovo by the parliament of the UN-run southern Serbian province.

Soren Jessen-Petersen, head of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), should "annul the provocative and risky act of the election of Ramush Haradinaj to lead the government of Kosovo," a Serbian government statement said.

It said Haradinaj was wanted by Serbia's judiciary on 108 counts alleging war crimes against Serb civilians.

Haradinaj, 35, was a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrilla movement during the 1998-1999 separatist war against Serbian forces, and has recently been questioned by UN war crimes investigators.

His nomination for prime minister by President Ibrahim Rugova following October parliamentary polls has been questioned by European officials, although he has not been charged with any crimes and denies all the allegations.

UNMIK, established after a NATO air campaign ended a brutal Serbian crackdown in the province in 1999, has not objected to his nomination.

The ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo -- which is technically a province of Serbia -- has accused Haradinaj, one of the most prominent figures in the separatist movement, of committing atrocities against Serb civilians while he was in charge of the KLA's western operations during the war.

He is considered a "terrorist" in Belgrade and the party of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica issued a strongly worded statement Friday describing his appointment as yet another blow to the Serb minority in Kosovo.

"With no objection to Haradinaj's election, UNMIK and the international community ... have sent a message to the Serbs and non-Albanians that there will be no justice, rule of law, freedom or basic human rights in Kosovo," the Democratic Party of Serbia said.

"They should not by any means allow a man who has attracted the serious attention of the UN tribunal to be elected prime minister. Haradinaj's election does not contribute to a solution, but to the intensification of the crisis."

Saturday's statement followed an emergency session of the Serbian government called by Kostunica, who described Haradinaj's election as a "political provocation."

"It will naturally be difficult to pursue a dialogue with the authorities in Kosovo when they are represented by a man accused of war crimes," he said.

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