Tuesday, January 31, 2006

LDK denies it has selected Rugova’s successor

For Balkan Update (BU) by Ferik. F.
Kosovo-Prishtina -Kosovo daily press comments today on the news that the largest party in Kosovo, LDK, has selected a candidate to replace Ibrahim Rugova as Kosovo President. The party spokesperson Lulzim Zeneli, however, has denied reports that the party has selected a successor at all. He told Kosovapress news agency that he knows nothing about this and warned the media not to report false information.

Some media have reported that this may have been an attempt by the more moderate faction of the party to install one of its own as the leader of the party. The apparent positive reaction from the International Institutions (Salona and the US Office in Prishtina have said he is a “good man”), could mean that Mr. Sejdiu is more likely to get that position now. Here is a reaction from the Kosovo media:

Koha Ditore says that Sejdiu, who is currently LDK Secretary General, will be the successor of late Ibrahim Rugova in the post of President if he manages to win the votes of members of the Kosovo Assembly. The paper also says that two members of the LDK chairmanship have confirmed the information on Sejdiu’s candidacy.

“Yes it is true but for this you need to contact spokesman Lulzim Zeneli ,” said a senior LDK official.

However, LDK spokesman Zeneli said that no decision on the candidate was not made yet. “For the time being, this is issue is not being discussed and it is not part of the debate at the LDK chairmanship. All details surrounding the decisions will be announced after the days of mourning in

Kosovo,” Zeneli was quoted as saying.

Sources from the LDK chairmanship told Koha Ditore that the LDK position is that the Kosovo President should replace Rugova at the helm of the Kosovo

Negotiations Team.

Express reports on the front page that Sejdiu has won the battle at the LDK chairmanship for the President of Kosovo. “The candidacy of the professor and politician, who is known as a calm man, will enter a dangerous vote at the

Assembly on 9th February,” the paper adds.

Epoka e Re in its leading front-page article asks Where would Fatmir Sejdiu get 61 votes? Apparently the paper thinks that Sajdiu will not be approved in the parliament.

According to Lajm, Sejdiu is an acceptable candidate for the international liaison offices in Pristina, for UNMIK and even for the opposition. The paper quotes unnamed sources as saying that Nexhat Daci’s candidacy for president fell in Dragodan at the US Office, “because Daci is considered a non-cooperative person with the opposition and the Negotiations Team.”

The daily press at the same time carries the first reactions by international officials on Sejdiu’s candidacy. After a meeting with Local Government Minister Lutfi Haziri, the US Head of Office Philip Goldberg was quoted as saying, “I don’t know if there was an official announcement on this issue and we have discussed with Mr. Haziri the issue of decentralisation. But regarding this question I can say that Mr. Sejdiu is a good man, but I cannot say more until the decision hasn’t been confirmed,” Goldberg said according to Zëri.

Koha Ditore and Express quote Goldberg as saying, “What I thought by a consensual president is someone who has broad support. I believe that a man like

Sejdiu would have broad support.”

Zëri reports that EU High Representative Javier Solana has welcomed the news that Fatmir Sejdiu is candidate for the President of Kosovo. “I am aware that the election of the successor to the Kosovo President was difficult, but we also expect the appointment of the head of the negotiations team in order to continue work in the process of negotiations. We welcome the fact that the name of the person for the Kosovo President was selected in such a short while, as I know that it was very difficult to find a replacement for President Ibrahim Rugova,” Solana was quoted as saying in the media.


Monday, January 30, 2006

The official burial ceremony of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova

Burial ceremony of former Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova.
From RTK(English and Albanian)

Fatmir Sejdiu to replace Rugova as Kosovo President

The largest party in Kosovo, LDK, has decided that Fatmir Sejdiu who is the current General Secretary of the party and the head of its parliamentary caucus, will replace Ibrahim Rugova as the President of Kosovo. Kosovo news agency QIK, who was close to the late president, reports that there was a complete consensus in the meeting held today by the LDK.

Fatmir Sejdiu is considered to be a moderate within the party and an acceptable figure from the opposition. He is a realist and a lot less idealistic than the late President, which signifies a change in direction the largest party in Kosovo, will take. Major reforms within the party will be expected if Sejdiu gets the position. Mr. Sejdiu is a doctor of History and a professor at the Law Faculty in the University of Prishtina. He comes the the Northeastern city of Podujeva(Besjana).

Sunday, January 29, 2006

US backs Kosovo incentives for the Serbian minority

By Guy Dinmore in Washington (FT)
Published: January 29 2006 18:19 | Last updated: January 29 2006 18:19

The US yesterday made the case for offering Serbia incentives to reach agreement in negotiations over the final status of Kosovo, while setting out the possibility of independence for the province if the ethnic Albanian majority accepted compromises to accommodate its Serbian minority.

Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state, told a Senate hearing the US was neither championing independence nor autonomy for Kosovo. But diplomats said his testimony was a clear signal the US looked favourably on independence, under certain conditions.

In what diplomats also called a significant policy statement, Mr Burns made clear the US had no objection to independence for Montenegro if it chose to abandon its union with Serbia through a referendum, whose terms have yet to be agreed.

Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, last week selected Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president, as his special envoy to lead talks on the status of Kosovo.

The United Nations has administered Kosovo since Nato occupied the province in 1999.

“They [Kosovo Albanians] want independence. They have to prove they are worthy of it,” Mr Burns told the Senate foreign relations committee.

Mr Burns said he had recently told the Kosovo Albanian negotiating team that they could not attain their objective without compromise. “They have to assure the minority population there’s a future for that minority population,” he said. That included guarantees that Serbian churches and historic sites would be respected.

Asked what incentives could be offered to Serbia, Mr Burns said a successful outcome would help the prospects of eventual membership of Nato and the European Union. Serbia would not be able to contemplate joining Nato as long as it was involved in a territorial dispute, he said.

Mr Burns reiterated that as a first stage, to join Nato’s partnership for peace programme, Serbia had to make sure that Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander, had surrendered to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Mr Burns said partition of Kosovo was not an option. He also advocated a continued Nato presence, with US troops, even after the settlement of status.

Diplomats said it was evident that, behind the scenes, the US and UK were most in favour of independence as a solution among the six-nation contact group.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Obituary: Ibrahim Rugova( Economist)

Jan 26th 2006

From The Economist print edition

Ibrahim Rugova, president of Kosovo, died on January 21st, aged 61


DURING the worst years of the Bosnian war a very strange, almost Ruritanian drama played itself out in another part of the dying Yugoslavia. In 1992 Ibrahim Rugova was elected president of Kosovo.

Once installed, he was driven to work in a black presidential Audi. His office issued daily communiqués about whom he had seen and what he had done. Ordinary people came to pay court and ask favours of the man they increasingly came to regard as the father of the nation.

And it was mostly fantasy. Mr Rugova had been elected president by Kosovo Albanians in a poll conducted in private houses. It was deemed illegal by Serbia, of which Kosovo was, and technically still is, a part. Mr Rugova's office was a wooden bungalow reached by skipping around muddy puddles behind the football stadium in Kosovo's capital, Pristina. No country in the world recognised Mr Rugova's claim to be the president of an independent state, save neighbouring Albania.

But it worked. Any week now talks are due to begin, organised by the United Nations, which are likely to take Kosovo a giant step closer to full independence. Of Kosovo's 2m people, more than 90% are ethnic Albanians.

Those years in the bungalow were strange indeed. While Serbian security forces prowled through Pristina in armoured personnel carriers, Mr Rugova and his colleagues plotted how to make their phantom republic real. They organised a parallel schooling system and health-care network which employed ethnic Albanians who had either been sacked by the oppressive regime of Slobodan Milosevic or had refused to work for the Serbian state any longer. At the same time, Mr Rugova kept in touch with a government-in-exile in Bonn which raised taxes to pay for all this among the Kosovo Albanian diaspora. A few men were sent to train as soldiers in military camps in Albania.

Mr Rugova gathered clever men around him and took a keen interest in his people's welfare. He himself inspired fierce loyalty and devotion. But to meet or interview he was phenomenally dull. His only topic was Kosovo's need for independence. In later years, especially after 2002 when he was formally elected president of Kosovo (since 1999 under UN jurisdiction), he often seemed more excited by his mineral collection than by humdrum daily politics. Visiting diplomats and foreign dignitaries could work out their relative importance to him and to Kosovo by the size of the rock he would give them as a gift.

His patriotism was imbued young. He was barely six weeks old when, in 1945, his father and grandfather were executed by Communist partisans taking over Kosovo. In 1976 he spent a year in Paris studying under Roland Barthes. He returned to Kosovo to become a professor of Albanian literature. From then on, he cultivated a bohemian air. He always wore a silk scarf, except in August. He was partial to drink and a heavy smoker, which may explain his death from lung cancer.

He became head of his party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), almost by accident. When it was formed in 1989 he was despatched to ask Rexhep Qosja, a prominent nationalist writer, to lead it. Mr Qosja refused and, to block anyone worse, the party's founders gave the job to Mr Rugova. “He was a total outsider,” recalled one journalist in the group. “He was a kind of loser who sat in the corner drinking too much coffee.”

Surprised by war

During the 1990s Mr Rugova urged peaceful resistance to Serbian rule. For this he was regarded as the “Gandhi of the Balkans”, especially when its other leaders seemed bent on war. But he was against it only because the Albanians had no arms and, until 1997, no way to get them.

When the Croats fought the Serbs in the early 1990s they tried to lure Mr Rugova into starting an uprising, a second front, which the Croats thought would weaken the Serbs. It might well have done, but Mr Rugova was having none of it. He did not want to give Mr Milosevic an excuse to drive out Kosovo's Albanians. This, of course, was exactly what the Serbian leader tried to do in 1999 during the war begun by the guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). This time, though, NATO responded by bombing the Serbs.

The coming of war took Mr Rugova by surprise. He seemed uncertain what to do. Supporters of the KLA charged him with treachery. When the bombing began he was placed under house arrest, forced to appear on television with Mr Milosevic and then sent into exile in Italy.

After the war he was slow to return; he seemed to be yesterday's man. Gradually, however, he realised his own strength. In the wake of the war many of the former KLA leaders appeared thuggish and violent. Members of Mr Rugova's party began to be assassinated and, without doing anything, he found his stock soaring once more. He seemed saintly and untainted with the suspicion of corruption.

In reality he was president only of Kosovo's Albanians and cared little for its other citizens. After the war, when ordinary Serbs and Roma were murdered and driven out by vengeful Albanians, he said nothing to defend them. It would have cost him popularity and, as he knew, the less he said the more popular he became.

Rugova died a Christian?

Speculations continue that the Former President had converted to Catholicism prior to his death. Nothing official yet, but Don Gjergji is considered to be serious personality, so I am tempted to believe him. On the other side, the picture(right) shows Muslim Imams praying at his grave whereas there were no Catholic Priests present.

In any case, the speculation continues. The article below appeared in Serbian media but the same information has appeared in Albanian printed meadia as well. I suspect that the truth will come out pretty soon but i doubt his family will ever confirm it. Personally i think he converted to Catholicism because he didn't feel very convertable who he was( He also used drinking and smoking as diversion tools).

ALBANIAN Roman Catholic priest Don Lush Gjergji, in a statement for Italian media ( 3 days ago), said that the late Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova died a Christian but he could not publicize his conversion to Christianity due to political opportunism.

"Rugova was culturally and spiritually a Christian. His conscience and heart were deeply Christian; however, he could not publicize this because we must not forget that Kosovo is inhabited by Albanians, the great majority of whom declare themselves as Muslims," said Don Gjergji.

Rugova's personal confessor indirectly admitted that he gave confession to the converted former president of Kosovo prior to his death.

"Let us say he offered his suffering to God and Mother Teresa. In any case, he began his journey of return to his roots far earlier. Many Albanian intellectuals are discovering their Christian roots and saying, we are the descendants of Skenderbeg and Mother Teresa; if we negate them, we negate ourselves," said the Albanian Catholic priest.

" Rugova never wanted to define his position with respect to Islam, in either the positive or the negative sense."

Gjergji also told the story of Rugova's meeting last week with Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice.

"The only person whom Rugova wished to receive in the end because of his weakness was Cardinal Scola. At one point Rugova tried to stand up and kneel before him but he did not succeed. Then he kissed his ring and said, I do this as a sign of devotion to Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and the Kosovo bishop who died a few days ago. We were all touched by his statement," Don Gjergji said at the end of his eyewitness account.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Rugova’s successor?

The new Kosovo president to succeed the late Ibrahim Rugova will be his party
colleague Fatmir Seidiu, the Pristina daily in Albanian Express published quoting
“international sources.” The daily asserts that Rugova’s post as the party leader
will be taken by Adem Salihaj, one of the prominent members of this ruling party
in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, the most influential Hungarian daily Nepsabadsag brought forward the
prediction that Veton Suroi could be the most acceptable solution in the possible battle for
Rugova’s successor. The daily states that Suroi has an advantage because the
international community would accept him, and that the US stands behind him,
which could also be decisive. Other meadia have said the the current speaker of
the Assembly Nexhat Daci will replace Rugova.

Solana impressed with dignity of the Kosovo people

Dailies cover the meeting of the EU High Representative Javier Solana with the
Negotiations Team of Kosovo. Zëri reports that it was the first meeting of the EU
diplomat with Kosovo leaders where no politics whatsoever was discussed.

“It was a moment of prayers, of expressing regrets, friendship and cooperation.
This is what we did in the meeting. It was a brief meeting but sufficient to express
in favour of friendship”, Solana said after the meeting with the Negotiations Team
of Kosovo, dailies report.

Express writes that Solana has asked the Negotiations Team to stay united, and
not to delay the election of the new President for Kosovo and also not to turn
down Vienna meeting.

Under the headline Daci ignores initiative for election of the new president, Koha
Ditore reports based on its own sources, that when they raised the speeding up of
procedures to find a new president, the Assembly chief, Nexhat Daci, brought the
meeting to a close, saying it was a day of mourning and that Kosovars will discuss
it by themselves.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

No Comment

Rugova's coffin being carried to a ceremonial hall by soldiers of the Kosovo Protection Corps. (BBC)

Ibrahim Rugova

Pictures from the BBC and Kosovo Public Television(RTK)

Kosovo says final farewells to its President

Coffin carried from parliament building
Kosova Protection Corps carry Rugova's body to its final resting place.
Large crowds have been gathering in the Kosovo capital Pristina for the funeral of President Ibrahim Rugova, amid a new row with Serbia.

Rugova, a familiar figure on the world stage, died on Saturday from lung cancer at the age of 61.

Weeping onlookers threw flowers at his flag-draped coffin as it was moved in procession from parliament.

Serbia's president has criticised the authorities in Kosovo for refusing him permission to attend the funeral.

President Boris Tadic, whose country once governed Kosovo, said the decision missed a chance to improve relations between the two sides.

"My wish was to pay respect to the man who thought differently from me, who devoted himself to the peaceful realisation of his ideas and who was a representative of Kosovo Albanians, with whom we share a living space," he said in a written statement.

Rugova spearheaded a non-violent campaign by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority to end Serbian rule. Despite being eclipsed by Kosovan guerrillas in the late 1990s, he remained a figurehead for ethnic Albanians.

Kosovo's parliament held a special session to pay its respects on Sunday and 15 days of mourning were declared.

Regional leaders, including the Albanian president and prime minister, Alfred Moisiu and Sali Berisha, and the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, joined thousands of ethnic Albanians who had been paying tributes at the parliament building since Sunday.

'Defining element'

On Thursday, the coffin was carried to a ceremonial hall where the dignitaries are expected to attend a funeral at midday, before his burial in the Tomb of the Martyrs memorial complex in the Velanija district of Pristina, where Rugova had lived.

Rugova has been the defining element of politics in Kosovo for so long that it is hard for us to imagine Kosovo, and Kosovan politics, without him

Talks on the future status of Kosovo were scheduled to begin this week but have been postponed.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90% of the population of Kosovo, hope the talks will lead to full independence from Serbia - an outcome opposed by Belgrade.

Kosovo has been a United Nations protectorate since a Nato bombing campaign forced Serb forces to halt operations against ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.

Serbia insists Kosovo should remain a part of its territory but the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo is demanding full independence.

Soren Jessen-Petersen, head of the UN mission administering Kosovo, described Rugova as "the defining element of politics in Kosovo".

International leaders have paid tribute to him as a moderating force and vowed to continue his work for a stable future for the province.

Parliament has three months to vote in a new president.

The head of parliament, Nexhat Daci, has been named acting president.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Pristina, 25 Jan. (AKI) - Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova, who died of lung cancer last Saturday, will be buried in Pristina without religious rites, his spokesman Muhamed Hamiti said Wednesday. A committee created to organise the burial to be held on Thursday has decided that that it will be a national and state funeral, without religious rites,” Hamiti told the Albanian language daily Koha ditore. There have been reports that Rugova, a Muslim, had converted to Catholicism, triggering speculations whether he would be buried according to Catholic, or Muslim rites.

Some Catholic priests in Pristina have said that Rugova was a “Catholic in his heart” but wouldn’t be buried as Catholic so as not to irritate the mostly Muslim Albanian community. The burial committee, which consists of members of Rugova family and leading political figures appears to have opted for a compromise solution aimed at not to offending either side.

Rugova, who was in essence a pacifist, has asked, according to his family, to be buried in the memorial complex in the centre of Pristina, dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), which started a rebellion against Serbian rule in 1998 prompted by Belgrade's persecution of Kosovo's Albanian ethnic majority.

Officially, Kosovo is still a part of Serbia, though it has been under United Nations control since Serbian forces were pushed from the province by a NATO bombing campaign in 1999. Serbian president Boris Tadic has asked a permission to attend a funeral, but his request was turned down by the burial committee.

"It is elementary duty that the president of Serbia goes to Kosovo, which is a part of the territory of this country and its integrity, to pay due respect to the political representative of the Albanian people," Tadic said.

The statement would have riled most ethnic Albanians who favour independence for the territory.

"President Tadic isn’t welcome to the funeral, particularly after his last comments. The president of Serbia hasn’t chosen the best moment to express the ambitions of his state towards Kosovo," an unnamed government official told Reuters newsagency.

Belgrade opposes Kosovo's independence. Talks on the final status of the province, which were scheduled for Wednesday, were postponed to February because of Rugova’s death.

The funeral will be attended by many foreign leaders and dignataries with most Balkan countries represented.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ibragim Rugova ( Video Documentary)

This is a video dumentary about the life of Former Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova. This documentary shows video clips of Mr.Rugova starting in 1989 until he died. It's very interesting! This one is from the Kosovo Public Television(RTK) and it's in Albanian.

Rugova asked to be buried alongside fallen KLA guerrillas

Rogova's resting place is being prepared by voluntaries for Thursday's burial ceremony.

Members of KPC (Former KLA soldiers) stand guard wile visitors pay their respects. Reports say that Rugova had asked to be buried in the cemetery with the fallen soldiers of the former Kosova Liberation Army.

PRISTINA, Kosovo- Kosovo president and pacifist icon Ibrahim Rugova will be buried this week alongside fallen guerrillas of the 1998-99 war in a rare gesture of unity among ethnic Albanians.

''His wish was to be buried in the martyrs' graveyard,'' a source close to the presidency told Reuters yesterday, as thousands queued in driving snow to see Rugova's flag-draped coffin in parliament.

The funeral will take place on Thursday.

The martyrs' graveyard is a Pristina cemetery reserved for members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Many former guerrillas and their supporters never forgave the scholarly Rugova for refusing to throw his weight behind their armed struggle for independence from Serbia, which eclipsed his policy of passive resistance.

But a source in the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), the civil successor to the disbanded KLA, said the corps, which will take part in the burial ceremony
, would ''act in accordance'' with the decision of the funeral committee.

The arrangement was in keeping with a thaw in relations between the two camps since Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo entered a coalition in December 2004 with former guerrilla commander Ramush Haradinaj, who became prime minister.

Haradinaj, who later quit to face charges before the United Nations war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia, visited the Rugova family after the 61-year-old president's death from lung cancer on Saturday.

Rugova leaves a leadership vacuum in the U.N. protectorate on the eve of UN-mediated talks to decide whether the 90 percent Albanian majority wins independence, or Kosovo remains part of Serbia, as Belgrade says it must.

Serbian President Boris Tadic said he wanted to attend the funeral, posing a potential security headache for the NATO-led peacekeeping force. During his first and only visit to Kosovo last year Tadic's convoy was stoned and pelted with eggs when passing through Albanian areas.

''It would be a matter of basic courtesy for the Serbian
president to go to Kosovo, which is part of Serbia's territorial integrity, and pay his respects to the political representative of the Albanian people,'' Tadic told Beta news agency.

A UN official said they had received Tadic's request and had passed it on to Rugova's family. It would be up to them and the Kosovo presidency to decide, not the U.N. mission.

''The funeral should not be politicised,'' the official said.

Rugova was the architect of a decade of passive resistance from the moment former Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic stripped Kosovo of its autonomy in 1989. With an underground system of schools and health care, he created a parallel state.

But he underestimated his people's readiness to die for their cause and clung stubbornly to his tactics as support swung behind the guerrilla KLA in 1998.

He was sidelined when NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 to compel the withdrawal from Kosovo of Serb forces accused of atrocities against civilians, but regained the political ascendancy after the United Nations took control.

While Kosovo Albanians look for a successor, the U.N.

mission has called for unity, fearing a messy power struggle that could delay a Western-backed process seen leading to independence.

Kosovo after Rugova

Jan 23rd 2006

From The Economist Global Agenda

Ibrahim Rugova, Kosovo’s president, will be buried on Thursday. Kosovars are mourning their well-known leader just as they prepare for delicate discussions on the future of the United Nations-protected province. UN-backed talks were due to start this week in Vienna, as foreign powers push for Kosovo’s eventual independence. Instead negotiations will follow next month

THE president of the disputed province of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova, died of lung cancer on Saturday, January 21st. The 61-year-old chain smoker had put Kosovo on the political map of Europe. With his passing many wonder whether the Balkans are in for a renewed bout of turbulence or even violence. While instability is unlikely, there are difficult days ahead.

Mr Rugova will be remembered as a historic figure who played an important role in Balkan politics and the wars of the 1990s. But to a great extent, his life’s work was done. It was dedicated to leading his people to independence and Kosovo's Albanians are now nearer to that goal than at any time in their history.

When Yugoslavia still existed Kosovo was Serbia’s southern province. Some 90% of its people are ethnic Albanians who have long demanded a fully independent state. In the wake of the Kosovo war of 1998-99 when NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days, the province came under United Nations jurisdiction. More than six years later, formal UN-sponsored talks between Serbian and Kosovar leaders on the future of the province were set to begin in Vienna on Wednesday. They have now been postponed until next month.

Serbia’s leaders say that Kosovo can have “more than autonomy but less than independence.” Kosovo’s Albanian leaders, a fractious lot, all agree that they will settle for nothing less than independence. But over the past few months it has become clear that the major powers who deal with the province - namely Britain, France, America and Russia - have more or less agreed it should move to what is being called “conditional independence”. This is code for full independence after a transitional period and with strong guarantees for Kosovo's beleaguered Serbian minority, believed now to number about 100,000 out of a total population of 2m.

Mr Rugova’s death will not change this. The president, who always sported a silk scarf and used to give visiting dignitaries small rocks from his mineral collection, had already formed a negotiating team for the talks. In theory his death does nothing to change this team, but it could be stronger or much weaker depending who now takes charge.

Where there is room for concern is in Kosovo’s domestic politics and how that affects the team. With 15 days of mourning declared not much is coming out in public about the backroom wheeling and dealing that is going on. Several important posts need to be filled. Kosovo needs a new president (he or she will be elected by the province’s assembly), a new chair of the negotiating team, and – possibly - a new government. Mr Rugova's political party, the Democratic League of Kosovo, (LDK) the province’s largest, also needs a boss.

Under pressure

According to Agron Bajrami, the editor of Koha Ditore, the most authoritative Kosovo daily paper, politicians are under intense pressure from the UN and diplomats to move quickly. Any infighting over jobs and positions should be dealt with quickly, they are warned. With the crucial status talks about to start, the politicians know they cannot be too ruthless about fighting for their own interests; those who seem to be preoccupied by their own ambitions may face a backlash from the public.

Nexhat Daci the speaker of parliament has taken over as acting president. He would like to be president in his own right. But that might mean he would chair the status negotiating team (he is already a member of it). That could be bad news, as other members of the team loathe him and his old fashioned demagogic style. Indeed, if it is the case, Veton Surroi, by far and away the most skilled of all of the team will walk out. Of Mr Daci, he says categorically: “I would not work with him”.

The UN and diplomats are working swiftly to see if they can get the parties to agree to separate the posts. (Mr Rugova held both.) Many believe that Mr Daci may already have made a deal to become president and to let Hashim Thaci, the former political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas, become prime minister. That could cause problems, especially in Mr Daci's LDK. Mr Surroi says the diplomats are wrong to try and hustle the Kosovars into making decisions quickly; those who argue that stability now is more important than democratic procedures are storing up problems for the future, he adds.

It will be a bitter day in the Balkans when they bury Mr Rugova. The temperature is forecast to fall far below freezing on Thursday. The airport, where foreign dignitaries are expected to arrive, might be forced to close. The main road out of Kosovo is already shut because of a landslide. But if the foreigners get to Kosovo they will be bringing not just messages of condolence. Directly or not, they will be telling local leaders to keep their internal squabbling to a minimum, to make sure there is no violence in the coming months and to put Kosovo's interests above their own, at least until the question of the province's status has been clarified.

So far the omens are not too bad, but a lot of tough talking remains to be done. Mr Rugova did not live to lead his people into the Promised Land, but he brought them pretty close. It seems unlikely that his death will turn back the clock now.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Rugova's death willl have no major repercussions


Pristina, 23 Jan. (AKI) - Ethnic Albanian politicians and analysts in Pristina, as well as politicians in Serbia are interpreting Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova's death this weekend as a great loss. Most analysts agree however, that despite the inevitable power struggle that will arise in the search for Rugova’s successor, and fears on the part of some Serb politicians that hardline elements of the ethnic Albanian community might gain greater power, no major political repercussions are likely, despite the postponement of talks on Kosovo's final status until next month.

Long lines formed early on Monday in front of the Kosovan parliament building, where Rugova’s body will lie in state until burial. Kosovo's authorities have declared five days of mourning for Rugova, and thousands of people waited in line to pay their last respects to the revered ethnic Albanian leader over the weekend in his Pristina residence. Rugova, a chain smoker, died on Saturday from lung cancer, and will be buried on Thursday.

There have been unconfirmed reports that Rugova, a Muslim, had converted to Catholicism. But according to reports in Pristina, he will be buried according to Muslim rites, to avoid provoking his fellow Kosovans, who are overwhelmingly Muslim.

Apart from the condolences which have poured in from world statesmen and international officials, Serbia and Montenegro's president, Svetozar Marovic, and Serbian president Boris Tadic expressed sorrow at Rugova’s death at 61. "I have respected Ibrahim Rugova as a long-standing leader of Kosovo Albanians," said Tadic. "I sincerely regret his death, which is a great loss for the Albanians in Kosovo," Tadic added.“Rugova possessed a certain democratic potential and credibility and acted within the law,” said one of the Kosovo Serb leaders, Oliver Ivanovic.

Furthermore, “unlike other leaders, he didn’t participate in crimes and violence against Serbs,” he added. Ivanovic, who like all Kosovo Serbs and Serbian leaders in Belgrade, opposes the independence of the province - which is still part of Serbia - expressed fear that Rugova might be replaced by more militant ethnic Albanian leaders. Hasim Taci, former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), which started a rebellion against Belgrade rule in 1999, is one such possibility.Ivanovic said that a major power struggle may be expected to elect Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) new leader to replace Rugova, rather than in the race for president. In any event, "Serbs must be on alert in this situation, because conflicts between different political options among Albanians might take place, and in such situations Serbs usually wind up as collateral damage,” Ivanovic pointed out.

Another Kosovo Serb, Milan Ivanovic, said that ethnic Albanians and the international community have already decided that Rugova should be replaced by Taci, who was supposed to lead the ethnic Albanian delegation at the now-postponed Kosovo final status talks in Vienna on 25 January.

Prominent Kosovo ethnic Albanian analyst Skelzen Maliqi, said he expected no “dramatic changes in the Kosovo political scene,” in the wake of Rugova’s death. He agreed that a major struggle might ensue in Rugova’s party, suggesting that parliament president Nexhat Daci was unlikely to succeed Rugova as LDK chief. According to the constitution, Daci will replace Rugova as acting president until parliament elects new president, but his standing in the party is not strong enough to replace Rugova, Maliqi said.Maliqi suggested that ethnic Albanians might form a 'grand coalition', with Taci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), now in opposition, and enter the government. That may pave the way for Taci, as the strongest candidate for Kosovo's president, political analysts said.

Other candidates mentioned are former prime minister Ramus Haradinaj and Fatmir Limaj. But Haradinaj has been banned from political activities pending trial. Political analysts say that the international community’s favoured candidate for president is Veton Suroi, a moderate politician, intellectual and the owner of the Pristina-based Albanian language daily Koha ditore.

The problem with Suroi is that he doesn’t enjoy enough popular support in ethnic Albanian radicalised community, however, according to analysts.Affter graduating in Albanian literature at Pristina University, Rugova gained his doctorate from the Sorbonne, University of Paris, and worked as a journalist and writer until 1990, when he founded the LDK. He was elected president after parliamentary elections in October 2004, and was supposed to head the ethnic Albanian negotiating team in talks on the final status of Kosovo, which has been under United Nations administration since 1999, after the Serb withdrawal following the NATO bombing campaign.Ethnic Albanians, who form a 1.7 million majority in Kosovo against some 100,000 remaining Serbs, demand nothing short of independence.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Press mulls Rugova's death

Book of condolences in Pristina
Kosovo Albanians are mourning dead leader

Newspapers in Kosovo, Serbia and neighbouring Albania reveal markedly different attitudes towards the death of Kosovo Pesident Ibrahim Rugova.

In Kosovo itself, newspapers carry large front-page pictures of their 61-year-old leader who died from lung cancer on Saturday, and headlines reflect their deep sorrow.

The close affinity of Albania with the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo is reflected in the press there, with headlines echoing their Kosovo counterparts and eulogising the dead president.

The Albanian nation is orphaned
Kosovo's Bota Sot

In Serbia, which eventually lost control over Kosovo after years of conflict with the ethnic Albanians, newspapers are either critical of Rugova and his people or are more concerned with pragmatic issues like who will be his successor and the move towards independence.

Kosovo's Bota Sot carries a headline: "President Rugova is no more, the Albanian nation is orphaned."

Koha Ditore hails "Ibrahim Rugova - an icon of independence". Another headline proclaims "Kosovo lost its President in the final run-up to Independence".

Express believes the past years have proved to be "Rugova's Epoch". It bids farewell with the headline, "Goodbye Marathon-runner". Lajm calls him simply "The statesman".

In Albania, Ballkan hails Rugova as the "Albanian icon who created an independent Kosovo".

Rugova was God's gift for Albanians
Albania's Gazeta 55

A commentator in the same paper calls him "the last of the Renaissance figures".

Another independent Albanian daily, Gazeta 55, carries the headline: "Rugova was God's gift for Albanians."

Other headlines include: "Rugova, embodiment of noble aspirations for independence" and "Death of a symbol".

The renowned Albanian writer Ismail Kadare is quoted as designating Rugova "one of the leaders of the entire Albanian people".

Two other papers lament that he failed to live to see Kosovo's full independence. "Death separates President of Kosovo Rugova from independence," says Sunday's Albania.

"Independence without Rugova," runs a headline in Gazeta Shqiptare.

The Balkan Ghandi was not prominent in the attempts to protect the Serbs
Serbia's Glas javnosti

In Serbia, the Belgrade daily Glas javnosti carries the headline: "War starts between Albanians".

"The last representative of the moderate Albanian wing has gone. His party has been torn apart by a war involving three factions," says a commentary in the paper.

"The Balkan Ghandi or Kosovo Havel, as he was called by the foreign media, had not been prominent in the attempts to protect the Serbs after the arrival of the UN administration," it concludes.

Vecernje novosti asks "Who will Succeed Rugova". "The richest Albanian, Bexhet Pacoli who is based in Switzerland, has already said that he wants to take over at the helm and take the Kosovo ship to the port of independence."

The Belgrade daily Politika notes that the "Kosovo talks, scheduled to start on 25 January, could be postponed because of the death of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova".

Serbian leader send condolences on the occasion of Rugova’s death

Most Serbian leaders have sent condolences on the occasion of Rugova’s death. Missing from the list is the Prime Minister of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica.

The SCG President Svetozar Marovic has expressed regret over the death of Ibrahim Rugova and
sent expressions of condolences to his family and the Albanian community in Kosovo, announced
the cabinet of the SCG President. Rugova was “known and respected as the advocator of a
peaceful way of achieving political goals,” said Marovic. He voiced hope that “such a way of
conducting politics, which was only unique to Ibrahim Rugova, will be dominant in the future as
well among Kosovo politicians and institutions

Serbian President Boris Tadic has sent his condolences to the family and all members of the
Albanian community in Kosovo over the death of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova. “I respected
Ibrahim Rugova as a politician and long-time leader of Kosovo Albanians. I am sincerely sad
over his death that is a big loss for all Albanians in Kosovo,” said Tadic. “I hope that Ibrahim
Rugova’s death will not ruin the efforts to find a peaceful, compromise and harmonizing solution
for the province’s future status,” he said. “Only such a solution can satisfy the legitimate interests
of both sides and contribute to political stability and European perspective of the entire region,”
reads Tadic’s statement sent by the press service of the Serbian President.

On the occasion of the death of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova, the SCG Foreign Minister
Vuk Draskovic has asked UNMIK Head Søren Jessen Petersen to convey his expressions of
condolences to Rugova's family, as well as to Assembly Speaker Nexhat Daci and Premier
Bajram Kosumi, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

President Rugova’s short biography

Following news on his death and reactions, Kosovo dailies also carry a biography on
Ibrahim Rugova. Following there is a summary of the main points taken from
Koha Ditore and Zëri.

He was born on 2 December 1944 in Cërrcë, a village in Istok municipality. When
he was one-year old, on 10 January 1945, Yugoslav communists executed his
father Ukë and his grandfather Rrustë. Finished high school in Peja in 1967 and
later graduated Albanian language studies from Pristina University. In 1976-77
Rugova spent a year at Sorbonne University in Paris, under supervision of Roland
Barthes, furthering his studies on literature and literary criticism. He got his PhD
at Pristina University in 1984. Rugova has written a dozens of books which got
republished in 2005. In 1998 he was awarded Sakharov Peace Prize, and in 2004
he also was awarded a prize by the European Parliament. Rugova was known as a
chain smoker, loved poetry, precious stones and Sharri mountain dogs. He was
never seen in public without his scarf. Because of his non-violent resistance
Rugova was also called “European Ghandi”.

On 23 December 1989 a group of writers and intellectuals decided to establish the
Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) as a party that would articulate the political
concerns of Albanians. They insisted that Rugova was elected president of the
party. Under his leadership Kosovo started a journey unheard of before of parallel
life, completely denying the existence of the Serbian authorities. The Republic of
Kosovo was declared and for over ten years of its existence Kosovo managed
despite difficulties to organize life or ‘the parallel state of Kosovo’, as President
Rugova used to call it at the time. This state however was not recognized
internationally but it was present in the lives of Kosovo Albanians. His nonviolent
politics was not producing the expected outcome and therefore in 1998 the
Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK) appeared marking the end of the peaceful
resistance. Rugova still believed in peaceful solution and was not supporting
radical ways to achieve freedom. In May 1998 the US mediator for Kosovo,
Richard Hollbrooke, managed to organize the first direct meeting between Rugova
and Milosevic in Belgrade, but without any result. During those times the
authority of the KLA was growing while Rugova’s was fading out.
After failing of talks in Rambouillet, and during the NATO bombing of Serbia,
Rugova was kept in home detention at his residence in Pristina and was afterwards
forced to meet against his will the Serbian President of the time, Slobodan
Milosevic, a meeting that affected his image. It was the time when about one
million of Albanians were being deported and Rugova reached an agreement with
Milosevic calling for an ‘end to bombing’. He was let to go to Italy and from there
he came back to Kosovo after the entrance of NATO forces.

To the surprise of many, Rugova’s party won all the elections organized after the
war and kept the post of Kosovo’s president, now internationally recognized.
Rugova testified against Milosevic at the ICTY and clarified the circumstances of
his meeting with him during war time. “Serbia wanted to destroy the people of
Kosovo”, he said.

He also was engaged in shaping a Kosovar identity based on the old tradition and
which is closer to Christian and European tradition. Despite fierce criticism by his
opponents, he also proposed Kosovo’s anthem and flag.

Rugova never stopped mentioning the word ‘independence’ but, his death left
many things unfinished. In his last address to the media, he seemed to have a
premonition, as he said there ‘always remains unfinished work….the main
unfinished work is recognition of Kosovo’s independence’.

He died without seeing his dream come true. He left behind his wife Fana, two
sons Mendim and Ukë and one daughter Teuta.

Condolences on Ibrahim Rugova’s death

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed deep regret over the death of
Kosovo president and said that Rugova’s death came “at an important stage of
final preparations for talks on future status of Kosovo.” Annan said the president’s
death will not hinder negotiations process.

UNMIK chief Søren Jessen-Petersen said that President of Kosovo Ibrahim
Rugova was a uniting force. He said the unwavering belief of President Rugova in
his vision for Kosovo led him decisively towards all his life. “The best tribute we
can pay to President Rugova is to stand united in the coming months,” Jessen-
Petersen said.

UN Status Envoy Martti Ahtisaari said Kosovo lost a historic leader in a crucial
period. “He was symbol of aspirations of Kosovo people,” said Ahtisaari, adding
that he was impressed by Rugova’s visions on the future of Kosovo.
Albanian President Alfred Moisiu said the news on the death of Ibrahim Rugova
“touched the hearts and feelings of Albanians everywhere.” He said the loss of
Rugova is great not only for Kosovo but for all those that speak the Albanian
language. Prime Minister Sali Berisha said Rugova was a symbol of “historical
resistance of Albanians for realizing a centuries-old dream of independence.” He
said he hoped Rugova’s dream for an independent Kosovo will come true as soon
as possible.

NATO General Secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stated that Kosovo President
Ibrahim Rugova was committed to the idea of a democratic Kosovo. “I am
convinced that his legacy will continue at this crucial stage and lead people of
Kosovo towards the future.”

COMKFOR Giuseppe Valotto said he lost a great friend in Rugova. He called on
the people of Kosovo to continue to act according to Rugova’s thoughts and

EU Foreign Policy Representative Javier Solana said, “With deep sorrow I
received the news on the death of President Ibrahim Rugova”. Solana said Kosovo
lost a historic leader who dedicated his life to the protection and promotion of
human rights in Kosovo.

Head of European Commission Jose Manuel Durrao Barroso said Rugova was a
“highly respected leader”. He encouraged all leaders to continue to work in
Rugova’s spirit.

Ursula Plassnik, chairperson of EU’s presidency said that Rugova, during his
extraordinary political career worked tirelessly for the interests of Kosovo.
US State Department issued a statement where it says that Kosovo lost a dearlyloved
leader and USA lost and old and respected friend. State Secretary
Condoleezza Rice said United States will work with all citizens of Kosovo to build
a society based on principles of democracy, human rights and interethnic tolerance
“so highly appreciated by President Rugova.”

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Rugova was one of the most popular
figures in Kosovo. He said people of Kosovo should continue work on a stable and
multiethnic society.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Rugova’s commitment against violence
should be a “legacy to all politically responsible people in Kosovo.”
French President Jacques Chirac said, “Today, France…pays tribute to historic
role and courage that led Ibrahim Rugova to protect democratic rights of Kosovo

Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini expressed condolences of Italian
Government to the people and administration of Kosovo.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel said that Rugova with his strong
personality contributed to the policymaking in the southeastern Europe.
Bulgarian Foreign Ministry issued a press release where it stated that the death of
Kosovo President comes at a delicate moment. “We are convinced that the
wisdom and pragmatism of Ibrahim Rugova will characterize the goals of leaders
that are to replace him,” reads the release.

Croatian President Stjepan Mesic said Kosovo lost a leader who’s peaceful and
calm politics is needed in this key moment Kosovo is going through. “Ibrahim
Rugova will be remembered not only as a regional politician but as one of the
main characters in the events that occurred in former Yugoslavia in years
following its disintegration.”
(Kosovo Media)

OSCE Ambassador in Kosovo Werner Wnendt said President Rugova shall be
missed by all.

Kosovo citizens pay homage to late President Ibrahim Rugova.

By Matthew Robinson

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Kosovo Albanians mourned their president, Ibrahim Rugova, on Sunday and began the search for a successor to lead the disputed Serbian province into independence negotiations.

Mourners filed past Rugova's hillside villa, where he died of lung cancer on Saturday aged 61, just days from negotiations Kosovo Albanians hope will clinch the independence Rugova championed for most of his life.

Flags hung at half-mast as the 90-percent ethnic Albanian majority contemplated a vacuum left by the two-time president, a charismatic and powerful figurehead for the past 15 years.

The head of the United Nations mission that has run Kosovo since NATO bombs drove out Serb forces in 1999 appealed for unity as direct talks with Serbia begin, postponed from next week to early February after Rugova's death.

"The aim to which he dedicated his life is that of a free Kosovo," Soren Jessen-Petersen told a commemorative session of parliament.

"It is a vision whose realisation remains in the hands of you, Kosovo's political leaders, whose unity and commitment to the president's mission will be vital in the coming months."

Rugova will be buried on Thursday, January 26 in Kosovo's capital Pristina, four months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. His body will lie in state in parliament from Monday.


Parliament has three months to vote in a new president, but Kosovo's Western backers are keen for Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo to overcome bitter factionalism and fill the void sooner. Analysts struggled to come up with a likely candidate.

"After Rugova begins a period of true democracy, since he left no successor," Kosovo daily Express wrote. "Now the political competition will be between equals."

Parliament speaker Nexhat Daci, a Rugova ally, was appointed acting president and is reported to want the job long-term.

Television broadcast archive footage throughout Sunday charting Rugova's rise from long-haired dissident scholar to passive resistance icon.

Legally part of Serbia, the province of 2 million people has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombing drove out Serb forces accused of the "ethnic cleansing" of Albanian civilians in a two-year war with separatist guerrillas.

The UN Security Council gave the green light to status talks late last year, responding to growing Albanian impatience with the status quo and U.S. warnings of fresh violence.

The major powers have signalled they want a decision on status within the year. Serbia says Kosovo is the cradle of the Serb nation and can never become independent.

But the Albanian majority has ruled out a return to Serb rule after years of repression in the 1990s, when Rugova turned the other cheek while he created a virtual underground state.

His policy of peaceful resistance was eclipsed by the guerrillas in 1998, but he bounced back after the war and was twice elected president.

Diplomats say Western powers will likely override Serbian opposition and steer negotiations over the next six months towards a form of independence, under continued international supervision for years to come.

(Additional reporting by Shaban Buza)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Swiss mourn the death of Kosovar President

January 21, 2006 6:30 PM
Print this story Send this story to a friend Send us your thoughts on this story
Rugova was a popular and moderate leader
Rugova was a popular and moderate leader (Keystone)
Switzerland says it is deeply saddened by the death of Kosovan President Ibrahim Rugova from lung cancer, calling him a great historical figure.
Rugova – whose dream of independence from Serbia-Montenegro was strongly supported by Switzerland – passed away days before international negotiations on Kosovo's final status were to start.

The talks – which were to be led by the United Nations – were to focus on resolving for once and for all whether the breakaway province, 90 per cent of which is populated by ethnic Albanians, should win independence from its mother republic.

The negotiations have been put on ice until February in response to the news of Rugova's demise, which occurred in his Pristina home, surrounded by family and doctors.

Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger praised Rugova's committment to finding a solution to the Kosovan conflict.

The Swiss foreign ministry told swissinfo that it hoped that the leader's premature death at 61 would not hinder the process to stabilise the region.

"It was due largely to Rugova that certain conditions were put into place that allowed the opening of negotiations under UN supervision on Kosovo's future status," spokesman Jean-Philippe Jeannerat said.

Bern said that Rugova was a "great figure in the history of the western Balkans" and a moderate leader.

Jeannerat also emphasised the ties that bound Switzerland to Kosovo, referring to the 200,000 Kosovans who are resident in the former.

"Nearly one in ten Kosovans live among us, the majority for a number of years now. In this context, Switzerland cannot be indifferent to the evolution of Kosovo and the western Balkans," he added.
Micheline Calmy-Rey and Ibrahim Rugova met in Pristina in August 2005
Micheline Calmy-Rey and Ibrahim Rugova met in Pristina in August 2005 (Keystone)
Switzerland has long supported the province's call to independence from the republic of Serbia and Montenegro, believing that continuing the status quo would destabilise the region.

It also maintains 220 peacekeeping troops known as Swisscoy in the area as part of a multinational Nato contingent.

In August last year Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey ruffled more than a few international feathers by announcing that reintegrating Kosovo into Serbia-Montenegro was neither desirable nor realistic during a visit to the area.

At the time, she faced criticism that she had compromised Swiss neutrality by making the pronouncement.
International icon
The Kosovan leader announced in September 2005 that he was suffering from lung cancer, the result of being a long-time chain-smoker.

Rugova was regarded as an international icon of the Kosovo-Albanian struggle for independence, which has lasted for decades.

He became Kosovo's first elected president in 2002, after former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic stripped the province of its autonomy in 1989.

This led Rugova to found and lead the political party, the Democratic League of Kosovo.

One nickname that stuck on Rugova, a Sorbonne-educated literature professor, was the "Gandhi of the Balkans" in a reference to the perceived similarity between his and the Indian leader's long campaign for freedom from foreign rule.

Rugova's death comes at a sensitive time for the province, given the proximity of negotiations on its final status and the lack of an obvious successor.

swissinfo, Faryal Mirza