INTERVIEW-Kosovo PM rules out tie with Albania unity group

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Tuesday, 14 December 2010 17:29 GMT

* Thaci's PDK seeks coalition with Western-minded parties

* Rules out alliance with pro-Albania unification party

By Fatos Bytyci

PRISTINA, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Kosovo's premier, whose party won Sunday's election with a third of the vote, said on Tuesday he was open to forming a coalition with any party except a surprise newcomer that seeks unification with Albania.

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci spoke with Reuters in his first interview since official results from the vote showed his Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) party had won 33.5 percent.

In the biggest surprise of Kosovo's first election since independence from Serbia in 2008, the Self-Determination movement seeking unification with Kosovo's ethnic kin in neighbouring Albania came third with 12.2 percent of the vote.

Thaci, who wants Kosovo to join the European Union and NATO although corruption and poor rule of law in the former Serbian province are likely to impede such progress for some time, ruled out any cooperation with that movement.

"I will choose the best partners that fit with my concept and vision for a Euro-Atlantic Kosovo," the former Kosovo Albanian guerrilla leader said. "I am for a region without borders in a united Europe."

The PDK's main rival and former coalition partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), won 23.6 percent on Sunday but has said it will not govern again alongside Thaci.

The two parties largely agree on goals for Kosovo -- economic modernisation and European integration -- but suffer from major personality clashes.

Thaci could turn to two other parties that combined for 17 percent, plus the votes of 20 parliamentary deputies from ethnic minorities, including Kosovo Serbs, he says back him. But analysts say such a coalition would not be solid.

ELECTORAL TAMPERING?

While the PDK came out on top in the first post-independence election, other parties and independent monitors have complained of irregularities in two Thaci bastions where turnout was more than 90 percent, far above the 48 percent national average.

"This was politically planned to spoil the charm of the deep victory of the PDK ... in 20 municipalities," Thaci said.

The Kosovo election commission has yet to decide whether a partial re-run is needed. "I am in favour of respecting ... every decision coming from the institutions," Thaci said.

Diplomats in Kosovo, which remains an international protectorate overseen by a Dutch diplomat, say Kosovo's new government will face more scrutiny over corruption than before.

Initially after independence, the international community placed a greater focus on establishing political stability in Kosovo, but diplomats say arrests over graft may now follow.

"I don't have any information or indications," Thaci said when asked whether he expected corruption probes from the EU police and justice mission. "(But) under no circumstances will people who are corrupt be part of my government."

One of the poorest countries in Europe, Kosovo's unemployment rate is estimated at 48 percent and there are scant prospects for immediate improvement.

In his campaign Thaci promised to raise salaries and create new jobs. "I will do this by cutting spending in many sectors and will work a lot to fight the informal economy," he said.

(Editing by Adam Tanner and Mark Heinrich)

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