02 April 2006

UN will not prevent former rebel commander becoming Kosovo's premier

Associated Press, Mar 06, 2006 6:18 AM


PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro-Kosovo's top U.N. administrator will not prevent the former ethnic Albanian rebel commander from becoming the province's prime minister despite demands from Serbia, an official said Monday.


Soren Jessen-Petersen, the U.N. official running Kosovo, "does not plan to block" the election of Lt. Gen. Agim Ceku for the province's top job, said Alexander Ivanko, the chief U.N. spokesman in Kosovo.


The Serbian government insisted Friday that Jessen-Petersen intervene and prevent the election of Ceku, considered by Belgrade to be a war crimes suspect, saying allowing him to take power could jeopardize ongoing talks on Kosovo's future.


However, Jessen-Petersen, who holds the ultimate power over decision-making in the province, considers that the recent government reshuffle was "done in line with democratic procedures," Ivanko said.


"He expects the democratic process to continue," he added.


Serbian authorities are investigating Ceku for war crimes, including genocide, but he has not been formally charged, Bruno Vekaric, spokesman for the special war crimes prosecutor's office, told Belgrade-based B92 radio.


Along with Ceku, the court is also investigating Bernard Kouchner, the former French minister who served as Kosovo's first top U.N. official in 1999-2000, and Hashim Thaci, another former rebel leader and the current head of the province's main opposition party, Vekaric said.


Serbia has also issued an international warrant for their arrest. Ceku denies any wrongdoing and has called the charges politically motivated.


Ceku's nomination for prime minister follows a political upheaval in Kosovo, which led to the resignation of his predecessor, Bajram Kosumi, and the dismissal of the assembly speaker last week. Parliament is expected to convene in the coming days to vote on the new government.


Kosovo has been a de-facto U.N. protectorate since the end of the 1998-99 war there between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serb forces. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority insist on full independence, but Serbs claim the province as the cradle of their culture and want Belgrade to retain control.