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Kosovo: Ethnic Albanian Parties Reach Power-Sharing Accord

The leaders of Kosovo's three main ethnic Albanian parties reached a power-sharing agreement today, enabling the election of a president and the formation of a government, nearly three and a half months after parliamentary elections. The deal calls for pacifist Ibrahim Rugova to serve as president and the former mayor of the divided city of Mitrovica to be prime minister.

Prague, 28 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The recently appointed chief of the UN administration in Kosovo, Michael Steiner, announced early today after five hours of talks that the province's three main parties have finally reached a power-sharing agreement.

"Everybody has shown in the end to be ready to make an effort, and we have an agreement," Steiner said.

The talks, which began in December following parliamentary elections held on 17 November, had been at a stalemate. With MPs voting along party lines, the head of the largest party, the Democratic League of Kosovo's (LDK) Ibrahim Rugova, repeatedly failed to muster enough votes to get elected president.

That was because the other two main ethnic Albanian parties, both headed by former commanders of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, or UCK, insisted on more power than Rugova was willing to share.

According to the Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore," which published today what it describes as the full text of the agreement, the new deal establishes a 10th cabinet minister post in a government intended to have just nine ministers. Albanians will have eight of the posts, Serbs one, and the other minorities one. No names have been made public yet on who will fill the ministerial posts. Kosovo's 120-seat parliament is expected on 4 March to ratify the deal, which calls for Rugova to be president of Kosovo. His LDK will have four cabinet seats.

Rugova was upbeat when he emerged from talks with Steiner last night: "As you can see, we are working on making the best possible solution for Kosovo, for forming Kosovo's institutions."

Rugova described today's accord as "a significant step."

Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo, or PDK, will have two cabinet seats, in addition to the prime ministership. That post will be occupied by Bajram Rexhepi, a prominent PDK member and former mayor of the ethnically divided northern city of Mitrovica.

Rexhepi said Thaci only gave him two days' notice before the talks that he was PDK's candidate. Rexhepi spoke today with RFE/RL's Albanian Unit about his new post.

"It's an obligation and a sacrifice," Rexhepi said. "It will require hard work, but I'm also proud. I'll do everything in my power to do what's possible."

Kosovo's next prime minister said his priorities are clear: "We have to finish forming the government and other institutions like the infrastructure of the judiciary. We have to work hard to rebuild life in Kosovo. But I am aware that we can't expect any miracles. I don't want to make any big promises. I only want to promise that I'll work hard."

But Rexhepi said he has little hope of being able to resolve the division of his own city of Mitrovica during his term in office.

Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, or AAK, will also have two cabinet seats.

The published version of the agreement in today's "Koha Ditore" says the signatories "promise to respect and promote generally accepted democratic principles and will give full consideration to opinions expressed in Kosovo's parliament by all political entities, including those which are not signatories to this agreement, and especially the opinions of representatives of minorities."

It also says the rights and equal treatment for all Kosovo residents of all entities will be protected without discrimination and that the new authorities will create the conditions for reconciliation and tolerance between different communities and groups in Kosovo.

Finally, the agreement stipulates that the new government will coordinate its activities with the heads of the UN administration and the commander of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force.