Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Kosovo PM Kosumi quits under pressure

By Shaban Buza

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro, March 1 (Reuters) - Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi resigned on Wednesday following international criticism that he had failed to do enough to create a multi-ethnic state as the province seeks independence.

Photo: Agim Ceku (Right) was the overall comander of Kosova Liberation Army during the war. He is seen in this picture with former NATO general Weskey Clark(Left).

Citing the need to preserve a coalition majority and the cooperation of Kosovo's Western backers, Kosumi told reporters: "I find the correct and ethical action is to resign from the post of prime minister."

Kosumi, 45, handed in his resignation to President Fatmir Sejdiu after word leaked that he no longer had the confidence of his own Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) party.

Kosumi was also criticised for ineptness by other members of Kosovo's ruling ethnic Albanian coalition and Western mentor states shepherding the Serbian province through talks that could lead to its independence later this year.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan criticised the Kosumi government in a January report for not doing enough to meet democratic standards set by the U.N. for the creation of a just and smoothly functioning multi-ethnic society.

Political sources said Kosumi's resignation was the "result of pressure" following a round of meetings with Western envoys earlier in the week, including the United States.

He is expected to be succeeded by Agim Ceku, a former senior commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) who now heads the Kosovo Protection Force, the civil emergency unit set up to absorb former rebel fighters.

"Agim Ceku has been offered the post of prime minister and is going to say he accepts at a press conference this afternoon," a source close to Ceku said.

Kosumi was elected by the Albanian-dominated Kosovo parliament a year ago when then-Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj was indicted on war crimes charges by the United Nations tribunal in The Hague.

Political sources said the ruling coalition was very unhappy with Kosumi's performance, his perceived lack of leadership and inefficiency. They pointed out that two cabinet posts, for the interior and justice portfolios, had still not been filled three months after they were created by the province's administration.

The West wants Kosovo's status resolved this year and is impatient with any unnecessary delays. Kosumi quit just as he was due to meet visiting United Nations special envoy Marrti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president charged with mediating Kosovo status talks with Belgrade.

FORMER GUERRILLA AS SUCCESSOR?

Serbs and Kosovo Albanians met in Vienna last week for a first round of direct negotiations on the fate of Serbia's disputed southern province.

The talks were delayed a month by the death of Kosovo Albanian president Ibrahim Rugova.

Former student activist Kosumi was sworn in on March 23 last year as head of Kosovo's interim government, the handpicked successor of Haradinaj, 37, who was also a former KLA guerrilla commander respected for his grasp on Kosovo's fractious political scene.

The province's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority wants independence from Serbia, which Belgrade says it is not prepared to grant. But Belgrade lost control of Kosovo nearly seven years ago when NATO intervened to stop the killing of civilians in a heavy-handed Serbian counter-insurgency war.

Up to 200,000 Serbs fled when NATO occupied Kosovo in the summer of 1999 fearing revenge attacks by Albanians. Securing the safety and rights of some 100,000 who remain, many living in isolated enclaves, is a central issue in the talks.

No comments: