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Kosovar President Nominates Ex-Guerrilla Commander Haradinaj As PM


Ramush Haradinaj is Kosovo's prime minister-designate.
Ramush Haradinaj is Kosovo's prime minister-designate.

Kosovo’s president has named former guerrilla commander Ramush Haradinaj as prime minister-designate and given him the mandate to form a new government, apparently ending a monthslong political crisis in the Balkan country.

President Hashim Thaci’s nomination of Haradinaj on September 7 comes shortly after Kosovo's parliament elected Kadri Veseli of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) as speaker -- a crucial step toward stabilizing the country’s political landscape.

Haradinaj, who fought in Kosovo’s battle for independence, briefly held the prime minister post in 2005 before resigning to stand trial before the United Nations war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia.

He was acquitted, but he is still wanted by Serbia under charges including murder and torture during and after the 1998-99 war in Kosovo, which led to NATO air strikes that helped the Kosovars drive Serbian forces out of the country.

His appointment as prime minister must now be approved by parliament, a move expected after the election of Veseli as speaker by a 62-52 vote in the 120-seat parliament.

Haradinaj told reporters in Pristina that he will present a new cabinet for approval by the parliament on September 9.

"The duty of all of us is to revive the country and bring hope back," he said.

Veseli heads a three-party ruling coalition that backs Thaci, who headed the PDK before he resigned as required to assume the presidency.

Saying there was no time to lose, Veseli urged the opposition to join the new government in passing reforms to improve the economy and to reduce unemployment.

He also mentioned the sticky issue of approving a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro, which Brussels has set as a condition for adding Kosovo to the list of western Balkan countries whose citizens don't need visas to enter the European Union

"There should be one joint stance on our agenda: Euro-Atlantic integration and backing dialogue with our neighbor Serbia," said Veseli.

The latest developments come days after the PDK agreed to a deal with the junior New Alliance for Kosovo party to form a government, potentially ending the political crisis sparked by inconclusive elections on June 11.

The September 4 accord gave the coalition, which includes Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) along with ethnic minorities, 63 of parliament's 120 seats.

The Veseli bloc, dominated by former fighters against Serbian rule, was able to secure the parliamentary majority and the right to form a government through a deal with ethnic Serb lawmakers of the Lista Srpska party.

A party official said Lista Srpska lawmakers committed to back the vote for the speaker but said it would decide "following consultations" with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and other Serbian officials whether to support a new government.

Kosovo, a country of 1.8 million people, 90 percent of whom are ethnic Albanian, declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

The independence has been recognized by more than 110 countries, including big Western powers, but not by Serbia or Russia.

There are about 120,000 ethnic Serbs in Kosovo and most of them, mainly in the north, oppose the Pristina authorities.

Kosovar Albanians oppose greater autonomy for Serb-dominated municipalities, saying that this would give Belgrade more influence in the country.

The European Union has pushed for Kosovo and Serbia to normalize ties, hosting a meeting late last month in Brussels between Thaci andr Vucic.

With reporting by AP, dpa, Balkan Insight, and RFE/RL’s Balkan Service
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