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Kosovo After Premier Is Indicted For War Crimes

UN Administrator Urges Calm In Kosovo After Premier Is Indicted For War Crimes

The United Nations administrator for Kosovo today appealed for calm following the resignation of the ethnic Albanian Prime Minister after he was indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal for his role as a guerrilla commander in the 1998-99 fighting that led to the world body running the Serbian province.

“I understand the sense of shock and anger over this development,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Søren Jessen-Petersen said of Ramush Haradinaj’s resignation on his indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

“I appeal, however, to the people of Kosovo to express your feelings through peaceful means. A violent response will not help Kosovo. It will only serve the interests of those determined to block Kosovo’s way forward. It will be a major setback to everything Kosovo has achieved recently and it will defeat all the recent achievements, notably those reached during Mr. Haradinaj’s leadership,” he added.

Mr. Jessen-Petersen said he would work with Kosovo’s political leaders to make sure that there is a government in place as soon as possible to lead to final status talks later this year on the ethnically divided province, which the UN has run since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops amid grave human rights abuses in fighting between Albanians and Serbs in 1999.

Last March, in the worst violence since the UN took over, an onslaught by Albanians to drive out Serb, Roma and Ashkali communities led to 19 people being killed, nearly 1,000 injured and hundreds of homes and centuries-old Serbian cultural sites razed or burned.

Mr. Jessen-Petersen had strong words of praise for Mr. Haradinaj. “Thanks to Ramush Haradinaj’s dynamic leadership, strong commitment and vision, Kosovo is today closer than ever before to achieving its aspirations in settling its future status. Personally, I am saddened to no longer be working with a close partner and friend,” he said.

“I appeal to all political leaders to show responsibility by joining together in common pursuit of the Kosovo’s higher interests at this crucial moment. Together, we can overcome the present difficulties, and continue forward on Kosovo’s European path towards a free, democratic, multi-ethnic, stable and prosperous Kosovo.”

In his most recent report on the province, Mr. Annan said that while noteworthy concrete steps have been taken in some areas, none of eight necessary standards had yet been fulfilled, such as democratic institutions, minority rights and an impartial legal system to build trust between majority Albanians and minority Serbs. Albanians outnumber other communities, mainly Serbs, by about 9 to 1.

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