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Prosecutor Calls Ex-Kosovo Leader 'Gangster In Uniform' --> Ramush Haradinaj leaving Pristina for The Hague on February 28 (epa) March 5, 2007 -- UN prosecutors have begun laying out war crimes charges against former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj at the opening of his trial in The Hague.

Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte told the court today that the former Kosovo Liberation Army leader and two of his aides -- Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj -- "were gangsters in uniform and [were] in control."

Haradinaj is a hero to some of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.

The case is only the second involving Kosovo Albanian defendants to come before the Hague tribunal.


Spotlight On Kosovo

THE WORLD'S NEWEST NATION? The region of Kosovo has a population of more than 2 million, some 90 percent of whom are ethnic Albanians. It was one of the poorest regions in the former Yugoslavia, but has considerable mineral wealth and an enterprising population, many of whom work abroad but keep close contact with Kosovo. All ethnic Albanian political parties seek independence on the principles of self-determination and majority rule. They feel that Serbia lost its historically based claim to what was its autonomous province under the 1974 constitution by revoking that autonomy in the late 1980s and then conducting a crackdown in 1999 that forced some 850,000 people to flee their homes.

Since NATO's intervention that year to stop the expulsions, Kosovo has been under a UN administration (UNMIK). The UN has begun to gradually transfer functions to elected Kosovar institutions. The primary Serbian concerns are physical safety for the local Serbian minority, a secure return for the tens of thousands of Serbian displaced persons, and protection for historic Serbian religious buildings. The main problems affecting all Kosovars, however, are economic. Until Kosovo's final status is clarified and new legislation passed and enforced, it will not be able to attract the investment it needs to provide jobs for its population, which is one of the youngest and fastest growing in Europe. Prosperity is widely seen as the key to political stability and interethnic coexistence in Kosovo, as is the case in much of Southeastern Europe.

For an archive of RFE/RL's coverage of developments in the disputed region of KOSOVO, click here.