Friday, February 10, 2006

New president elected in Kosovo

The Kosovo parliament has elected a 54-year-old law professor, Fatmir Sejdiu, as the province's new president ahead of key UN-sponsored talks.

Mr Sejdiu replaces the late Ibrahim Rugova, the iconic figure who led the non-violent campaign by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority to end Serbian rule.

Mr Rugova died of lung cancer last month. Mr Sejdiu has vowed to continue his push for independence.

Mr Sejdiu was the sole candidate in the parliamentary vote on Friday.

He has been on the presidency of Kosovo's biggest party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), since it was formed in 1991.

Kosovo remains a Serbian province administered by the UN.

Talks on the future status of Kosovo are scheduled to take place later this month. They were delayed by Mr Rugova's funeral.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90% of the population of Kosovo, hope the talks will lead to full independence from Serbia - an outcome opposed by Belgrade.

Kosovo has been a United Nations protectorate since an armed uprising by ethnic Albanians and a Nato bombing campaign forced Serb forces to pull out of the province in 1999.

Nato intervened to halt a crackdown by Serb security forces on ethnic Albanian civilians, thousands of whom were driven from their homes.

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