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Kosovo's Prime Minister Resigns, Citing Hague Designation As 'Suspect'

Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj gestures during an interview with RFE/RL in March.
Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj gestures during an interview with RFE/RL in March.

Kosovo's prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, has announced his resignation after his designation as a suspect by a Hague-based court that pursues serious crimes committed during and immediately after the 1998-99 Kosovo War.

"I am resigning from the position of the prime minister of the Republic of Kosovo. I want to thank you for your trust and support. The reason has to do with the invitation I have received from the Specialist Chambers in The Hague, as a suspect," Haradinaj said after a government meeting in Pristina.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor's Office, which was added to Kosovo's constitution in 2017 to try people suspected of serious violations of international law, allows prosecutors to relocate proceedings outside the country.

He told reporters that he had agreed to be interviewed by the body and that "I considered that I cannot go to the questioning as head of the government."

Haradinaj added that while the situation was politically bad for Kosovo, "I will respect the legal request. I will go there. I will defend myself as a fighter of my country."

This marks the second time Haradinaj has stepped down from the prime minister's seat as a result of accusations from The Hague.

His 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 Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK).

Haradinaj, who heads the political party Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, has twice been acquitted of war-related charges, in 2008 and again in 2012.

His current term as prime minister began in September 2017.

Haradinaj called for snap elections to replace him, but Kosovo's constitution states that if the prime minister's seat is vacated, the president should appoint a new candidate "in consultation with the majority party or coalition that has won the majority in the assembly to establish the government."

Following the resignation, Kosovar President Hashim Thaci wrote on Facebook that he respected Haradinaj's decision and assured that "I will act based on my constitutional and legal competences."

"Kosovo citizens will be informed in time," Thaci added.

With reporting by AP

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