Kosovo president elected head of ruling party, replacing late pacifist leader Rugova

President Fatmir Sejdiu was elected leader of Kosovo's largest political party Saturday, replacing the province's late iconic pacifist leader, Ibrahim Rugova.

Sejdiu is only the second head of the League of Democratic Kosovo, or LDK, in 17 years. Party members at a congress in Pristina chose him as leader over former speaker Nexhat Daci.

Rugova, who died of lung cancer in January, launched the party in 1989 from a gathering of prominent figures in Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and campaigned for self-rule from Serbia.

Sejdiu, 55, was expected to name a temporary replacement as party chief while, in his capacity as Kosovo president, he leads a five-member delegation engaged in talks with Serbia's officials on the province's future status.

The Albanian majority — about 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million population — wants to establish an independent state, while Serbia has insisted it remain part of its territory.

Talks on settling the dispute so far have produced no results, and the U.N. envoy in charge of them has delayed any resolution until next year. He said he would make a proposal after Serbia's Jan. 21 elections.

The delay has raised fears of renewed violence in the volatile province.

On Friday, police said unknown suspects blew up railway tracks in central Kosovo, stopping railway traffic on a passenger route used by minority Serbs. No injuries were reported.

Over the week police also confirmed the appearance of masked gunmen in Western Kosovo allegedly bearing insignia of the clandestine Albanian National Army.

Kosovo has been under U.N. control since a 1999 NATO air war halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists. It is currently patrolled by about 16,000 NATO-led troops in charge of security. NATO has said it would keep its troops in Kosovo intact.

[Source: Associated Press, Pristina, 09Dec06]

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