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Serbia backs Kosovo organ trade probe

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(BELGRADE) - Serbia will give its full cooperation to a European probe into allegations of organ trafficking by Kosovo Albanian rebels in the 1990s, President Tomislav Nikolic said on Thursday.

"Our country has high hopes for this investigation and that is why Serbia is prepared to fully cooperate with the special team of investigators," Nikolic said in a statement released after meeting with prosecutor John Clint Williamson who was appointed by the European Union to lead the probe.

Claims that ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo removed organs from Serb prisoners of war and sold them on the international black market surfaced in 2008, with Brussels now investigating the allegations.

Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty has alleged in a hard-hitting 2010 report that senior Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commanders -- including current Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci -- were involved in illegal organ trafficking.

The report said that organs were taken from the bodies of prisoners, many of them Serbs, held by the KLA in Albania at the time.

Thaci and his government as well as Albania have denied the accusations and condemned Marty's report.

The meeting between Nikolic and Williamson comes a little over a month after Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic revealed he had a witness who participated in harvesting organs from a Serb prisoner during the 1998-99 conflict between ethnic Albanian rebels and Serb forces.

In a television interview the unnamed Albanian-speaking witness gave a gruesome account of how he removed the heart of a Serb victim.

The EU-led probe "will not only focus on organ trafficking but all crimes against Serbs noted in the Dick Marty report," Williamson was quoted as saying in the presidential press release.

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