Tuesday, March 15, 2005

EU's Solana praises Kosovo "maturity" after Haradinaj's surrender

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana praised Tuesday the "maturity" of Kosovo citizens following the surrender of former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj to the UN war crimes court.

His comments came despite an apparent roadside bomb attack on Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova's convoy minutes before the two met in the provincial capital Pristina. One person was injured in the blast, witnesses said.

"Kosovo institutions have worked very well at this period of time," Solana told reporters after meeting Rugova, who escaped the blast shaken but unhurt.

"Everybody has behaved in a constructive manner and I want to thank everybody for this behavior. I want to thank the people of Kosovo for their maturity."

Haradinaj, a former leader of the ethnic Albanian guerrilla movement that fought Belgrade forces during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict, stepped down after being indicted by the UN war crimes court earlier this month.

He pleaded not guilty in his first appearance before the court on Monday.

The Kosovo Albanian majority, which demands independence from Serbia, regards Haradinaj as a hero of the separatist struggle and opposes any former rebels appearing at the UN court.

Solana was in Pristina to discuss the formation of a new government after Haradinaj's resignation. He said Rugova would have to "take responsibility about how the next government is going to take place".

"He has the support of the EU in something that in our mind is very, very important now -- it is that all the Kosovars have a sense of common course and common direction," he said.

Rugova dismissed concerns that Haradinaj's departure would cause a crisis of government in the tiny Balkan territory.

"I will nominate the new prime minister on time. There is no institutional crisis. The situation is stable and the provisional government is continuing its work."

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