Friday, February 04, 2005

Kosovo premier guarantees ethnic violence not to recur in province

Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj expects that all regional standards will be implemented by May and that discussions regarding Kosovo's final status will be ready to start by September.

"Then we will begin talking with the international organizations about the constitution, guarantees for minorities and what the Kosovo community will look like, as a whole," Haradinaj said.

He added that the status talks would be led between Kosovo institutions and the international organizations alone. Belgrade, in his opinion, "can participate as a third party, but not as a direct party that will make decisions regarding status, because that will be completely up to the Kosovo government and the international community".

Haradinaj said that he had not received an indictment from the Hague tribunal, although he was interviewed. "Unfortunately, the government in Serbia has, since the war in Kosovo, been leading their politics against me and saying that I am a criminal and a bad person, and they wish to prove all of that with an indictment from the Hague tribunal," Haradinaj said, adding that the citizens of Serbia should know the truth about him.

"I stand by my claims that I have never committed any war crimes," the Kosovo prime minister said, adding that he wished to do everything he could to ensure the safe return of Serbs refugees to the region. The Kosovo return minister [Slavisa Petkovic] at this moment has a budget of 14m euros to work with and many countries are ready to invest more into the return effort.

"We have put aside 4m euros in our budget for the rebuilding of Orthodox churches and are waiting for church officials to approve the move so that we can begin. I keep reiterating that there is no reason for the Serbs to fear for their safety in Kosovo. As Kosovo prime minister, I guarantee that something like 17 March [when ethnic violence broke out in the province last year] will never happen again," Haradinaj said.

Haradinaj added that "independence is the only and best solution for all Kosovo citizens in this part of the region," and that there is no alternative "because that is the political stance of the Kosovo community".

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