Serbia demands UN probe of Kosovo organs charges

UNITED NATIONS Thu Feb 17, 2011 6:36am IST

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Serbia called on Wednesday on the U.N. Security Council to set up an independent inquiry into charges that Kosovo's prime minister and his associates were behind organ trafficking and other crimes a decade ago.

But Western envoys rejected the demand, saying the European Union police and justice mission in Kosovo, which has already begun a preliminary investigation into the allegations, could handle the matter, something Belgrade disputes.

A report by Dick Marty, rapporteur of the Council of Europe human rights watchdog, accused members of the former Kosovo Liberation Army loyal to Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of abductions in Kosovo, gun- and drug-running and trafficking in organs from ethnic Serbs in 1999-2000.

The report was adopted by the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly last month. Thaci, who won most of the votes in December in Kosovo's first elections since it declared independence from Serbia three years ago, has rejected the report and threatened a lawsuit.

Kosovo, which is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, remains an international protectorate and home to around 2,000 police, judiciary and customs officials from the European Union mission, known as EULEX.

The mission took over from a U.N. administration set up after a NATO bombing campaign drove Serb forces from Kosovo in 1999 to end attacks on civilians.

Calling Marty's report "deeply disturbing," Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told the Security Council a full and independent criminal investigation was needed.

"The solution lies in establishing an ad hoc investigating mechanism created by -- and accountable to -- the Security Council," Jeremic said.

He said that while EULEX could contribute to the inquiry, it could not lead it because the allegations extended to activities elsewhere in Europe, in Asia and in Africa.

But U.S. envoy Rosemary DiCarlo said EULEX was quite capable of leading the investigation. "We do not believe that an ad hoc U.N. mechanism is necessary or appropriate," she said in direct contradiction of Jeremic's remarks.

The ambassadors of Britain and Germany expressed similar views to DiCarlo's, but Jeremic was supported by Serbia's long-standing ally Russia. The United States and Britain, however, have the veto power to block a U.N. inquiry.

The dispute reflected long-standing differences in the council over Kosovo. Most Western countries have supported the former Serbian province's independence but Russia has joined Belgrade in opposing it. Some 75 countries have recognized Kosovo, but that is less than than half of U.N. members.

Kosovo acting Foreign Minister Vlora Citaku, in a speech to the council, accused Marty's report of "failing to provide any proof whatsoever" of its charges. She said they should be investigated but this should be done by EULEX prosecutors.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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