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U.N. in Kosovo rejects criticism of chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor

PRISTINA, Serbia-The U.N. mission in Kosovo on Thursday rejected complaints by the chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor who said it was not cooperating enough with her investigators. Authorities reacted to a statement by Carla Del Ponte, who told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that her office had "more difficulties to access documents belonging to U.N. mission in Kosovo than any other place in former Yugoslavia."

Del Ponte also said that the U.N. administrators, running Kosovo since mid-1999, were encouraging "a climate which deters witnesses from talking to my investigators when it comes to the Albanian perpetrators." The U.N. mission in Kosovo rejected Del Ponte's "assessment as having no basis in fact."

In a statement, officials insisted they were cooperating with the tribunal and said the U.N. strives to respond to concerns for the protection of victims and witnesses and has taken extensive measures to protect sensitive data.

Kosovo, formally a province of Serbia, has been run by U.N. administrators since mid-1999 when NATO's air war halted Serb forces' crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

The war crimes tribunal has indicted six ethnic Albanian former rebel commanders of the now-disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army. Among them is Kosovo's former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, indicted in connection with war crimes committed during the 1998-1999 conflict with Serbian government forces.

He surrendered to the court last year and was released to return to Kosovo pending the start of the trial. He was also allowed to take up his role of the president in his political party, which is part of the province's governing coalition.

Last year, the war crimes tribunal acquitted two former ethnic Albanian rebel leaders accused of committing war crimes during the conflict and sentenced one to 13 years in prison for executing nine prisoners in 1998.

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