Ex-rebel chief Agim Ceku is Kosovo's new premier

The ethnic Albanian guerrilla commander and a former Croatian army officer is the new prime minister of Serbia's breakaway province.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2006 13:49 IST

Agim Ceku, a former Yugoslav and Croatian army officer and ethnic Albanian guerrilla commander, became the new prime minister of Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province.

"The newly elected government that I will lead will focus on further strengthening institutions, employment and improving the economic position of all citizens of Kosovo," Ceku said.

"We will work to create a bridge of trust between the communities in Kosovo. The time of hatred, discrimination and suffering of all citizens of Kosovo should belong to the past. The time of inter-ethnic reconciliation, integration and overall prosperity has come," he went on to say.

Nominated as a non-partisan by the ruling coalition of the League for a Democratic Kosovo (LDK) and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), Ceku was backed by 65 of the 120 votes in the Kosovo assembly, while five deputies abstained from voting.

The UN administrator in Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen, congratulated the Kosovo assembly for upholding democratic values in challenging circumstances.

"I also welcome Prime Minister Ceku's pledge to hard work and readiness to address any future shortcomings in the performance of the government," said Jessen-Petersen in a statement.

Ceku emerged as the candidate after his predecessor, Bajram Kosumi, surprisingly resigned last week amid pressure from his own AAK.

Kosumi resigned at a delicate time, just days before Pristina and Belgrade were to launch direct talks on the future status of Kosovo.

International officials hope that the appointment of the new cabinet can end the political turmoil that erupted in January with the death of Kosovo's president and undisputed leader of the majority Albanians, Ibrahim Rugova.

The Albanians, who make up 90 per cent of the population of Kosovo, want quick independence, while Serbia and the Serb minority in the province want it to remain under Belgrade's sovereignty.

First Published: Mar 11, 2006 13:40 IST