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Kosovo PM Resigns, Former Guerilla Leader to Take Over


Kosovo's prime minister, Bajram Kosumi, resigned Wednesday amid disarray in his ruling Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party. Mr. Kosumi is being succeeded by former anti-Serb guerilla leader Agim Ceku.

The unexpected resignation of Kosumi comes only a week after the start of Kosovo status negotiations sponsored by the United Nations. The 45-year-old Kosumi had been in office one year. Party leaders say the change was made to preserve the government's slender majority in parliament. The alliance party forms a coalition led by the much larger Kosovo Democratic League. The larger party made its own move Wednesday, dumping its parliamentary speaker Nexhat Daci.

The likely new prime minister is Agim Ceku, a 45-year-old politician who heads Kosovo's national guard, the Kosovo Protection Corps. His nomination is lespected to cause a stir in Serbia as Ceku has been accused of war crimes by Belgrade. He was a commander in the Croatian army during its fight with Serbia and later led the Kosovo Albanians against Serbia. A party statement said Ceku will lead Kosovo to independence. Kosumi said the main achievement of his government was the launch of status negotiations.

While technically still a part of Serbia, Belgrade's military was forced out of Kosovo in 1999 after NATO intervened on behalf of the oppressed ethnic Albanian majority. NATO led troops remain in Kosovo, which is administered by the United Nations. The tiny non-Albanian minority, mostly Serbs, lives in enclaves protected by international peacekeepers. The Albanian majority demands independence, something Serbia says it will not consider.

U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari is in Kosovo and says the latest developments are unlikely to affect the status talks that he is leading. The talks resume March 17.

Kosovo politics have been in flux since the territory's dominant politician and president, Ibrahim Rugova, died less than two months ago.