Reuters International

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo's parliament voted on Friday to extend the mandate of the European Union police and justice mission, whose work was suspended earlier this week because of a dispute over its role.

Two-thirds of Kosovo's parliamentarians voted to allow the mission, known as EULEX, to stay in the country until June 2018.

The mission handles war crimes and other cases considered too sensitive for local prosecutors and judges.

Western sources said the EU and Kosovo had disagreed over what the mission should do. Kosovo wanted it to have more of a monitoring role but the EU wanted it to continue its job of investigating and trying cases.

The mission halted court proceedings on Wednesday pending the parliamentary vote.

Under a new deal, EULEX will try current cases but will only take on new cases if Kosovo's legal authorities agree.

"With this vote we are performing a service to strengthen justice in Kosovo," Prime Minister Isa Mustafa told MPs.

EULEX, which arrived after Kosovo declared independence in 2008, is unpopular with the biggest political party, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), and with some other politicians.

Senior officials from the PDK and close allies of President Hashim Thaci have been jailed or accused of war crimes, corruption and organised crime.

A former province of Serbia, Kosovo is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with high levels of crime and corruption often cited as the main obstacles to foreign investment in the nation of 1.8 million people.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Giles Elgood and Dominic Evans)

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