'Our war was clean and just' says Kosovo's Thaci

Tirana (AFP) –


Kosovo President Hashim Thaci on Sunday defended his record, a day before flying to The Hague to be questioned by war crimes prosecutors over his role in the 1998-99 conflict.

"Our war was clean and just," said Thaci, now 52, who was the political leader of an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group when it rebelled against Serbian rule.

While the rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) had "perhaps committed political errors", they had "in no circumstances violated international law", he told Albania's Top Channel television station.

"Kosovo was a victim," he insisted.

Thaci will on Monday be interviewed in The Hague by prosecutors who have accused him of war crimes in the 1990s conflict with Serbia that won the province its independence.

He was charged in late June by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers of war crimes and crimes against humanity investigating the conflict, which claimed about 13,000 lives, overwhelmingly Kosovo Albanians.

"It's true that we violated the laws of Slobodan Milosevic", the man who ruled Serbia at the time of the conflict. But that was something he was proud of, he added.

The Kosovo conflict was only ended when the NATO forces launched a bombing campaign against Serbia that forced them to quit the territory.

Thaci, Kosovo's most powerful politician, insists he is not guilty and has said he would quit if the accusations were confirmed. The indictment still needs approval from a pre-trial judge, which could take months.

Thaci, his closest political ally Kadri Veseli and others are charged with being "criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders" in addition to other crimes against Serb, Roma and Kosovo Albanian victims.

President since 2016 and prime minister before that, in recent years Thaci has taken part in talks aimed at normalising ties with Serbia.

Belgrade still rejects the independence of its former province, declared in 2008.

After the 1990s war, several Serbian military and police officials were convicted of war crimes.

But KLA rebels have also been accused of coordinating a campaign of revenge attacks on Serbs, Roma and ethnic Albanian rivals during and after the war.