Kosovo PM Indicted for War Crimes, Resigns

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Kosovo's prime minister resigned Tuesday after being indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal for his alleged part in atrocities during the fight against Serb forces.

Ramush Haradinaj (search) told The Associated Press he would travel to The Hague, Netherlands, where the court is based, to defend himself.

"I am one of those accused," he said, suggesting others also had been indicted. "As a result of this indictment I have resigned."

The U.N. prosecutor later confirmed the indictment.

Haradinaj said he would voluntarily turn himself in to court authorities in The Hague on Wednesday. He said he asked Deputy Prime Minister Adem Salihaj (search) to run the government until a new prime minister was chosen.

Haradinaj, in office for three months, was a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (search), the ethnic Albanian rebel group that fought Serb troops in the 1998-99 conflict that led to the province's present status as a U.N. protectorate.

U.N. war crimes investigators questioned him late last year for his role in Kosovo's war, during which he served as a commander of the ethnic Albanian rebels in the west of the province. He has denied involvement in any crimes.

But at the time of his appointment to head the government, Haradinaj spoke with great pride of his time as a rebel leader.

"I have met my obligation toward my country, and I promise that all my life I will do the same if my country needs me," he said.

Kosovo continues to seethe with ethnic tensions nearly six years after the end of the war, and the decision to charge Haradinaj was significant.

Kosovo is now being administered by the United Nations, but U.N. officials are believed to favor ultimate independence for the province, which is formally still part of Serbia-Montenegro (search).

Haradinaj suggested the decision to indict him was motivated by U.N. concerns that Serbs needed to be mollified before such a decision was reached.

He described the moves against him as "political bargaining," adding: "I am convinced that there is no force to stop Kosovo's road toward its independence."

The Kosovo Albanian majority considers Haradinaj a hero in the struggle for independence from Serb rule. But most of the Serb minority considers him a criminal, along with other past leaders of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army that fought the Serb forces of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (search).

Milosevic himself is being tried by the tribunal for his alleged part in atrocities in Kosovo and other Balkan wars of the past decade. That trial, and the fact that most of those who have answered to the court have been Serbs, have embittered Serbs, who accuse the court of bias.

They were likely to see Haradinaj's indictment as at least partially righting such perceived injustice.

NATO's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (search), urged Haradinaj to cooperate for the good of Kosovo.

"I am confident that Ramush Haradinaj will, as he has announced, meet his obligations and cooperate fully with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (search)," he said in a statement.

Haradinaj is the second senior former rebel leader to be indicted by the tribunal. The U.N. war crimes court indicted Fatmir Limaj in 2003, and he now is on trial at The Hague for his role during the ethnic Albanian insurgency.

Security was boosted as the news broke in apparent anticipation of trouble by Kosovo's ethnic Albanians. Col. Yves de Kermorvant, spokesman for the NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo, said 500 additional British troops have arrived in Kosovo since Monday.

NATO helicopters hovered over Pristina, the provincial capital, as its government went into session. But no unrest was reported by early afternoon.

The U.N. mission administering Kosovo elevated its security threat level to "stage black" around the western Kosovo town of Pec because of a police operation, said U.N spokeswoman Hua Jiang, suggesting others on the same indictment were in that region.

"Stage black" means only essential staff have to report for duty, she said.

Kosovo, which officially remains a province of Serbia-Montenegro, has been administered by the United Nations and NATO since the alliance's 1999 war aimed at halting a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian rebels.