Former minister-in-exile to take top job in independent Kosovo

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 20, 2014 10:05 AM

By Fatos Bytyci

PRISTINA (Reuters) - A former minister-in-exile during Kosovo's 1990srebellion against Serbian rule is poised to become the state's next prime minister, a senior party ally said on Thursday.

It comes after the United States helped broker a deal to end more than five months of political deadlock.

"The only name that LDK (Democratic League of Kosovo) has nominated is Isa Mustafa," Lutfi Haziri, a senior LDK official, told Reuters.

Mustafa is leader of the LDK, a former mayor of the capital Pristina and once finance minister-in-exile in the 1990s, when majority-Albanian Kosovo was a southern province of Serbia.

Kosovo broke away from Belgrade in 1999, when NATO bombed for 11 weeks to halt the expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians by Serbian forces waging a two-year counter-insurgency war.

The LDK was then led by the late Ibrahim Rugova, who charted a policy of passive resistance against Serbian rule during the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia only to be eclipsed by a guerrilla insurgency in 1998.

A deal reached late on Wednesday sees the LDK join forces with the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) led by outgoing prime minister and former guerrilla commander Hashim Thaci.

Thaci's PDK won a June election but fell short of a majority. The LDK joined forces with other opposition parties in a bid to deny him a third consecutive term, and the two sides spent the next five months arguing over the wording of the constitution on who had the right to form the government.

LDK has confirmed it will take the post of prime minister from Thaci. Newspaper reports say the PDK will propose the speaker of parliament and that Thaci will replace incumbent President Atifete Jahjaga when her term ends in 2016. Thaci has not confirmed this.

Mustafa studied in Pristina and Belgrade in the 1980s and spent much of the 1990s living in Western Europe. Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and has been recognized by more than 100 countries, but not by Serbia or its big-power backer Russia.

(Editing by Matt Robinson/Jeremy Gaunt)