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One of the most vocal supporters of NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999, Britain's Tony Blair says he heard nothing about organ harvesting by KLA rebels during the conflict with Serbia.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that during his time in office he heard nothing about organ harvesting allegations in relation to the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, during the Kosovo war.
“I never heard of organ harvesting and cannot comment on it,” Blair said in Pristina, when asked about the Council of Europe report in 2010.
This alleged that a criminal network linked to Hashim Thaci, now Kosovo's Prime Minister, executed kidnapped civilians and sold their organs after the 1999 Kosovo war.
As Prime Minister of Britain, Blair was one of the most vocal supporters of NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999, which resulted in the withdrawal of Serbian troops and Kosovo being placed under UN interim administration.
“I saw first hand what happened here and I did what I could with others to make things better,” he recalled.
Blair, who visited Kosovo on Monday, said the country had made progress since the end of the conflict, and deserved wider recognition.
“Kosovo is a fact. Even if some countries may be slow in recognizing it, Kosovo is a fact… There are still some points of opposition within the EU, but some members really wish to see Kosovo in the EU,” he told reporters.
“I think for Kosovo what is really important is to put the country in the best position,” he added.
Blair was in Kosovo to launch two new programmes as part of his Faith Foundation’s work, and sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Kosovo’s hovernment.
He also signed partnerships with Kosovo’s Public University and the American University of Kosovo, aimed at helping understanding of the role that religion plays in society.
Blair met local leaders, including the Foreign Minister, Enver Hoxhaj, and the EU Integration Minister, Vlora Citaku.
“We bow to you, with a great recognition for what you did for the freedom of Kosovo," Hoxhaj said.
"We express our greatest gratitude to hundreds, thousands of British soldiers, who prevented our physical liquidation and contributed a lot for Kosovo,” he added.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and has since been recognised by 89 states, including the US and 22 of the 27 EU member countries. But Serbia has firmly rejected the move and some powerful countries, including China and Russia, have also not recognised it.
Five EU member states, Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Greece and Romania, are all firmly opposed to recognition, either out of sympathy with Serbia or because they have secessionist problems of their own.
In two high-profile war crimes trials currently ongoing in Pristina, a series of witnesses have retracted previous statements alleging abuse at Kosovo Liberation Army detention centres.