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Serbia Denounces Kosovo Albanians' Choice of Prime Minister


The Serbian government Friday strongly criticized the Kosovo Albanians' selection of a former rebel commander, who battled Serbs during the Yugoslav wars, as prime minister. Belgrade is calling on the United Nations administrator in Kosovo to block the appointment.

Belgrade expressed its utmost concern that Agim Ceku, a man it regards as a war criminal, should become Kosovo's prime minister.

Belgrade is demanding that the U.N. administrator of Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen, block the appointment of Ceku, who was a rebel commander during the 1999 war between Serbia and ethnic Albanian guerillas.

In an interview with VOA, the U.N. official said he had expected a strong protest from Belgrade. But he made clear that he is unlikely to prevent Ceku from taking office.

"He has a lot of credentials, and I already know from many talks with him that he will focus a lot on the minority issues [in Kosovo]," said Mr. Jessen-Petersen. "So, they [the Serbian government] may not like it today. But they will like what they see in a month or two."

The change of prime ministers in Kosovo comes at a delicate time. Negotiations between Serbs and ethnic Albanians on Kosovo's status began last month and are to resume on March 17. The Albanians want independence, something Serbia says it will not consider.

The U.N. negotiator chairing the talks, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, says he does not expect the change of government in Pristina will affect the negotiations. Ceku's nomination to be prime minister is expected to be approved by the Kosovo parliament within the next few days.

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