PRISTINA/BELGRADE Kosovo's EU justice mission said on Wednesday it would study a draft European report that makes criminal allegations against Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, as local opposition politicians rallied behind him.
Thaci's government has denounced as baseless the investigative report's assertions that he headed an organised crime ring that assassinated opponents, trafficked in organs and drugs and committed other crimes during the Kosovo Albanian guerrilla war against Serbia in the late 1990s.
The report also cited intelligence findings over more than a decade that Thaci and associates controlled heroin and other drug dealing and had been consistently named as leaders of mafia-like structures in Kosovo.
Serbia questioned whether he could survive the allegations.
The European Union police and justice mission (EULEX) in Kosovo said it would examine the allegations outlined by Dick Marty, rapporteur for the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly committee on legal affairs and human rights.
"We'll be looking at the report carefully," Andy Sparkes, deputy head of EULEX, told Reuters. "If they have got chapter and verse on this kind of thing, then obviously we would like to hear from them more formally so that we can deal with it."
In Kosovo, where Thaci won Sunday's first national election since 2008 independence, rival parties condemned the report, which raised serious questions about the KLA guerrilla army's conduct of the 1998-99 independence war against Serbia.
Glauk Konjufca of Kosovo's Self-Determination movement, which came in third, said: "Different international circles including members of the European Union have tried not to accept the KLA war as a liberation war and they have tried many times to blacken this history."
Neighbouring Albania also slammed the report.
"The report by Dick Marty is totally not based on any fact, evidence or any reality. This clearly shows the political bias of the author and this marks a flagrant abuse of the authority of the Council of Europe," Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said.
Officials in Serbia, which has long asserted that the international community has unfairly focused on its 1990s war crimes without applying the same standard to other nations, saw more serious implications for Thaci.
"I don't know what sort of future this person has if you take into account the report about the investigation from the Council of Europe about his participation in the heroin trade, human trafficking and human organs and his role as the head of one of the most organised criminal-mafia clans in the Balkans," Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said in Moscow.
Oliver Ivanovic, Serbia's State Secretary for Kosovo, said the report would not derail planned talks between Belgrade and Pristina mediated by the European Union.
"I will be rather unpleasant now for anyone who sits down to negotiate (with Kosovo), but I do not think this will jeopardise talks as a whole," he told Reuters. "It is now up to international players to find an alternative to Thaci."
But Zoran Dragisic, a lecturer with Belgrade's School for Security Studies, warned of domestic Serbian consequences. "As far as Serbia is concerned, whoever sits down to talk with Kosovo representatives will be crucified," he said.
Analysts suggested the report would also mar Kosovo's image in countries that supported its independence.
(Additional reporting by Thomas Grove in Moscow, Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade and Benet Koleka in Tirana; Editing by Paul Taylor)