Colombia Expels Kosovo Liberation Leader
By Dialogo May 08, 2009Colombia invited a leader of Kosovo's independence war for a conference on demobilizing guerrilla movements then expelled him based on an Interpol warrant issued at Serbia's request, the government said Thursday. "It's just another attempt from Serbia to undermine Kosovo as a state and portray me as a war criminal," former Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku told The Associated Press by phone from Paris before flying on to Croatia. "I was the hero of the conference," Ceku said. "People were lining up to take photos with me and that's what annoyed Serbia." Serbia does not recognize the breakaway province of Kosovo as independent though at least 58 countries have, including the United States and major European Union nations. Ceku said organizers of the conference, held in Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, had asked him to stay for longer than planned. Instead, he was detained on Wednesday, flown to Bogota and deported. The director of Colombia's DAS security agency, Felipe Munoz, told the AP that Serbia sought the expulsion after Ceku's arrival for the conference, which was organized by President Alvaro Uribe's peace commissioner and attended by Uribe himself as well as by Guatemala's president, Alvaro Colom. The peace commissioner, Frank Pearl, was asked in a radio interview if the incident wasn't a diplomatic faux pas. "We didn't invite anyone to expel them," he said. "He didn't have a 'red notice' when he was invited and didn't have a 'red notice' when he arrived in Colombia." The Interpol-issued notices alert member nations that a person is wanted for possible extradition but does not force them to arrest or expel the individual. Munoz said Colombian law compelled the Ceku expulsion. During the 1998-99 Kosovo war Ceku was the military head of the ethnic Albanian guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army. He led the KLA's transformation into a "civil emergency force." Part of that organization later became the Kosovo Security Force, a NATO-trained, lightly armed force tasked with defending Kosovo. Ceku said the warrant on which he was expelled was old but reissued by Serbia this year. It was not the first time the apparently old warrant has haunted Ceku. In the past, he has been briefly detained by Slovenia and Hungary.