19 January 2008 – Hashim Thaci has refused to apologize to the Serbs for the crimes committed while he was the leader of the KLA.

The so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which the Serbian state considered terrorist, was involved in attacks on Serb police and civilians before and during the 1999 war in Kosovo.

But Thaci was not the subject of investigation by the Hague Tribunal prosecutors, who raised indictments against three former KLA leaders, Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj, and Lahi Brahimaj, for their actions in 1998.

The new Kosovo prime minister was taking part in a news conference in Čaglavica’s media center today, when reporters asked whether he felt guilty for the crimes committed against the Serbs in the province.

Journalists also wanted to know if Thaci would apologize to the victims, now that he has assumed the duties of the province’s prime minister.

“I am very proud of my past and the past of my people who, along with NATO, arrived at the goal,” he answered, in reference to the NATO bombing of Serbia in the spring of 1999, which ended after 78 days with the withdrawal of Serbian securty forces from the province, and its placement under UN administration, regulated by the Security Council Resolution 1244.

“We need to turn to the future, not to the past,” said Thaci, and then added, “everyone knows who should be apologizing.”

Speaking about the Kosovo government’s plans, he said it will “guarantee all minorities their rights as envisaged in the Ahtisaari plan.”

Thaci explained that a new office for minorities will soon open with his cabinet, and called on all those driven out of their homes in the province to return to Kosovo, adding that his government would guarantee them security.

Official data shows that nearly 190,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians left the province after the war in 1999. Almost all of them now live in other parts of Serbia as IDPs, or internally displaced persons.

Thaci said today that the resolution of Kosovo’s status should not bring fear, but rather a better future for all residents, and stressed that “there has been no ethnically motivated violence for the past two years.”

“The patriotism of the Albanians is today seen in their respect for the minority communities,” the Kosovo prime minister said, adding that those Serbs who entered his cabinet as ministers “will not be merely decoration.”

Thaci did not wish to speculate on the date Kosovo Albanians might decide to unilaterally declare the province’s independence, but said this would happen “in the near future and in coordination with Washington and Brussels.”

Source: B92

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