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Ex-Kosovo premier cleared of war crimes

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Former ethnic Albanian rebel commander and former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, smiles as he arrives in capital Pristina, Kosovo on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. A U.N. war crimes tribunal has acquitted the former prime minister of Kosovo and two of his former Kosovo Liberation Army comrades for the second time on charges murdering and torturing Serbs and their supporters in Kosovo's war for independence. ( AP Photo / Visar Kryeziu )

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 9:50 p.m.

PRISTINA, Kosovo — A former prime minister of Kosovo pledged on Thursday a return to political life after a U.N. war crimes tribunal acquitted him for the second time of murdering and torturing Serbs and their supporters in Kosovo's war for independence.

Ramush Haradinaj returned to jubilant crowds in Kosovo and was given the red carpet treatment and greeted by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

“I am happy that international justice has confirmed our path to freedom was just and clean,” Haradinaj said. “I will work with all of you to move this country forward.”

The verdict was issued in the U.N. court's first retrial, which was ordered after appeals judges branded the 2008 acquittals of Haradinaj and Kosovo Liberation Army fighters Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj a “miscarriage of justice” because of widespread intimidation of prosecution witnesses.

Brahimaj was convicted of torture at the first trial and that was not retried, but he has served his sentence and will be released with the others. The acquittals herald a political renaissance for Haradinaj, seen by the West before his 2005 indictment as a unifying force in Kosovo, but could complicate talks between Pristina and Belgrade.

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