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Kosovo Lawmakers Vote To Disband Parliament To Allow Snap Autumn Elections

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Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj announced his resignation in July. (file photo)

PRISTINA -- Lawmakers in Kosovo have voted to disband parliament, clearing the way for President Hashim Thaci to call early general elections following the resignation of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.

After 89 lawmakers in the 120-member parliament voted in favor of the motion at an extraordinary session on August 22, Haradinaj hailed Kosovo's "political maturity" and "stable democracy."

President Hashim Thaci, who is now required to call the snap polls within 45 days, said he would announce the election date "soon" so that the country quickly has "a functional and accountable government that copes with the challenges of the state and the society."

U.S. Ambassador Philip Kosnett welcomed the country’s "important step" toward forming a new government and encouraged a "campaign in which candidates offer fresh ideas on talks with Serbia, rule of law, and economic development."

Haradinaj resigned on July 19 ahead of his questioning by a Hague-based court investigating alleged war crimes by fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) two decades ago.

He has since acted in a caretaker role.

While Haradinaj has claimed his innocence, he said he felt he could not go to The Hague as the head of the government.

It was the second time Haradinaj, a former commander in the KLA, has stepped down as a result of accusations from The Hague.

The political crisis comes as Kosovo is at an impasse with neighboring Serbia.

A former Serbian province, Kosovo declared independence in 2008. Although more than 110 countries recognize Kosovo's statehood, Belgrade does not.

European Union-mediated talks between Kosovo and Serbia to settle their differences have stalled.

Tensions have escalated in recent months, as Pristina imposed a 100-percent tariff on all Serbian goods in November in retaliation for what it said were Belgrade's efforts to undermine the young republic on the international stage.

New elections will put the EU-led talks on hold for longer, with a planned summit next month likely to be postponed.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he expects negotiations to only resume "in early December, at best" because of the elections.

The United States and four Western European countries on August 13 called on Serbia and Kosovo to restart the talks "with urgency," saying the current status quo is "simply not sustainable."

"After years of stagnation, the time has come to finally end the conflicts of the 1990s and provide a secure and prosperous future for the people of Kosovo and Serbia," the governments of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States said in a statement.

Haradinaj's first resignation came in 2005, after he was indicted by the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with his wartime role as a top commander in the KLA.

He has twice been acquitted of war-related charges, in 2008 and again in 2012.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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