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Former UN Kosovo envoy Hans Haekkerup dies

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Hans Haekkerup, a former Danish defense minister and U.N. envoy who oversaw Kosovo's first general election, has died. He was 68.

A veteran Social Democratic politician who was first elected to the Danish Parliament in 1979, Haekkerup died on Dec. 22 after a long illness, party spokesman Martin Justesen said. Haekkerup served in the ministries of education, social affairs and labor before being appointed as defense minister in 1993, a post he held until he succeeded Bernard Kouchner of France as the U.N.'s top official in Kosovo in January 2001.

Kosovo fought a separatist war against Serbia in 1998-99, and declared independence in 2008 after almost a decade of being administered by the United Nations. Haekkerup secured the participation of the Serb community in Kosovo's first general election in 2001, but the move strained relations with the ethnic Albanian majority. His departure from the job as chief U.N. administrator after just one year was largely blamed on ethnic Albanian extremists.

Haekkerup's death was not announced publicly until his burial on Monday. Justesen wouldn't comment on the cause of death other than saying that Haekkerup had been ill for a long time. In 2011 Haekkerup told a Danish newspaper that he suffered from multiple system atrophy, a deadly neurological disease.

Associated Press Writer Nebi Qena in Pristina, Kosovo, contributed to this report.

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