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Trafficking report threatens Kosovo-Serbia talks: Thaci

30 December 2010, 19:17 CET
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(PRISTINA) - Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci warned on Thursday that a Council of Europe report linking him to organ trafficking and organised crime could endanger long-awaited EU-brokered talks with Serbia.

"It is an attack by Dick Marty against the dialogue (between) Kosovo and Serbia," Thaci told AFP in an interview, referring to the report drawn up by the Council of Europe envoy.

Thaci slammed the report as "racist" and described it as "Goebbels-style propaganda", a reference to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

Marty's report was released just as Pristina and Belgrade were expected to begin "closing the chapter of darkness and opening the chapter of the future between the two states and two nations", he noted.

But Thaci said he was still committed to taking part in the talks with Serbia.

"I have expressed readiness to meet with (Serbian) President (Boris) Tadic as the two most legitimate leaders of our countries, Kosovo and Serbia," Thaci said.

The dialogue would lead to ending a "century-old conflict between the Albanians and the Serbs", he added.

The report by the Council of Europe alleges that Thaci and other senior commanders of the rebel ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were involved in organised crime and organ trafficking during and after the 1998-1999 war with Serbia.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Despite Belgrade's fierce opposition, it has so far been recognised by 72 countries, including the United States and all but five members of the European Union.

Although Belgrade and Pristina have agreed to the EU-brokered talks to resolve issues related to Kosovo's declaration of independence, a date has yet to be set for them to start.

Brussels is pushing them to start the talks on basic issues such as communications, transport and energy as soon as possible.

As the dialogue progresses, the parties are expected to move on to more sensitive issues like those who went missing, the return of refugees and property rights.

Marty's report indicates that Thaci headed a KLA faction which controlled secret detention centers in Albania where the organ trafficking was alleged to have taken place in the aftermath of the war.

The parliamentary assembly of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe is set to adopt Marty's report in late January.

Thaci insisted that the affair had already been investigated by the UN warcrimes tribunal in The Hague, but no case has so far been brought to justice.

"As nowhere else in the region, Kosovo has had a strong international presence and the justice was administered by the international authorities," Thaci said.

"We have nothing to hide," he insisted.

After the end of the conflict in June 1999, Kosovo was administered by the United Nations. Following the declaration of independence, a European Union police and justice mission in Kosovo (EULEX) was established in order to assist in rule of law issues.

It also has a mandate to try cases that the Kosovo judiciary cannot or will not handle because of their sensitive nature, like war crimes and corruption claims.

Thaci said he had "confidence in the justice system", adding that "planted fabrications" from Marty's report will come to nothing.

But Pristina officials were concerned the report, if adopted by the top European rights body, would affect further international recognitions of Kosovo's independence.

In 2010 only eight more countries have recognised Kosovo.

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