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Ramush Haradinaj, candidate for Prime Minister, of the coalition of the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commanders AAK, PDK and NISMA casts his vote during the Parliamentary elections in Pristina, Kosovo June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Hazir Reka


PRISTINA (Reuters) - Ramush Haradinaj, a former guerrilla fighter who has twice stood trial for war crimes, was chosen on Thursday to form a new government in Kosovo, ending a political deadlock that has persisted since elections on June 11.

President Hashim Thaci gave Haradinaj the mandate after his coalition struck an agreement with a smaller party that paved the way for them to take power.

Haradinaj's coalition comprises parties made up of former guerrillas who fought Serbian forces in 1998 and 1999. That campaign led to accusations of war crimes against him, but he was acquitted twice by a United Nations war crimes tribunal.

The coalition signed an agreement on Monday with the smaller New Alliance for Kosovo (AKR) party to put together a new government, an agreement that gives them 62 seats in the 120-seat parliament. The AKR is led by Behgjet Pacolli, whom media call the richest man in Kosovo.

Haradinaj is expected to present his programme to parliament on Saturday, after which the government should be elected.

The new government will confront unemployment running at 30 percent and uncertain relations with Kosovo’s neighbours, especially Serbia, a precondition for both countries to move forward in their efforts to join the European Union.

It must also reform health and education and the tax administration system as well as include representatives of some 120,000 Kosovo Serbs who do not recognise independence.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO air strikes drove out Serbian forces that had been accused of expelling and killing ethnic Albanian civilians in a two-year counter-insurgency.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Larry King)

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