Thursday, December 09, 2004

NATO warns against violence if Kosovo PM is indicted by ICTY

NATO on Thursday delivered a stern warning to Kosovo's new prime minister and his supporters against a violent reaction if the former ethnic Albanian rebel commander is indicted for war crimes.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said any misbehavior would not be tolerated if the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) charges Ramush Haradinaj with crimes against Serbian civilians during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo.

In a meeting of NATO's governing board, the alliance's foreign ministers demanded that the prime minister and his supporters "behave responsibly if Mr Haradinaj might be indicted," de Hoop Scheffer said.

He stressed that the decision on whether to indict Haradinaj was entirely up to ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte but that NATO, which has some 20,000 troops in the UN-administered southern Serbian province, would not tolerate violence.

"It's important and that's what the ministers discussed: that Mr Haradinaj and his followers behave responsibly if he is indicted by the ICTY," de Hoop Scheffer told reporters.

Haradinaj, 35, who was elected prime minister last week by Kosovo's parliament, is wanted by Belgrade on 108 counts of alleged war crimes against Serb civilians during the Kosovo war when he was a senior rebel commander.

Serbian officials have referred the case to The Hague-based ICTY and tribunal investigators recently questioned Haradinaj although no charges against him have yet been laid.

Haradinaj has denied all the allegations but Serbia on Saturday called on the United Nations, which has administered Kosovo since 1999, to annul his election.

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