Thursday, November 04, 2004

War crimes court summons for interview former rebel leader in Kosovo - AP

The U.N. war crimes tribunal has summoned a former rebel commander turned politician in Kosovo for an interview on his role during the province's war, officials said Thursday.

Ramush Haradinaj, one of the leaders of the ethnic Albanian rebels who fought Serb forces during Kosovo's 1998-1999 war and a prominent politician in the province, said he will appear before the war crimes investigators next week here.

In a statement, Haradinaj said he is willing to meet the officials from the U.N. court based in The Hague, Netherlands, to answer "unspecified allegations."

Haradinaj, who heads the third-biggest party in Kosovo, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, served as the commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army, a guerrilla group that battled Serb forces loyal to the former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He commanded the rebels in the western part of Kosovo.

The chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor's office declined to comment on the case.

Haradinaj's party warned in a separate statement that any attempt to indict him for war crimes could threaten the stability in this U.N.-run province.

The war wagged by the KLA was "a just war, war for freedom and for defending Kosovo's people," the party said. "Ramush Haradinaj was part of this war and any speculation against his role in the war is not in conformity with the justice, but with (Serbia's) anti-Kosovo policy."

Serbian officials have called for the arrest of Haradinaj and several other ethnic Albanian rebel leaders alleging they committed crimes against civilians in Kosovo.

Kosovo was placed under U.N. and NATO rule after the 1999 alliance's air war that ended Milosevic's brutal crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians. The 1998-99 war killed an estimated 10,000 people, mainly ethnic Albanians.

The court last year indicted three Kosovo Albanians, among them Fatmir Limaj, a senior former rebel commander, on charges of illegal imprisonment, torture and murder of Serb and ethnic Albanian civilians. That case marked the first time the tribunal acted against the rebels, who acted as NATO's allies during the war with Serbia.

Carla Del Ponte, the chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor, told NATO's North Atlantic Council Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium, that she will issue a new indictment against the KLA leadership by the year's end.

But she complained that her work was hampered by "widespread, systematic and potentially deadly" witness intimidation as she tries to wrap up her Kosovo investigations.

Del Ponte also criticized the international community for not helping her probes against the former rebel leadership.

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