11 March 2006

Serbian president wants to attend funeral of Kosovo's Rugova

APJan 23, 2006 2:10 PM


BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro-Serbia's pro-Western president said Monday he wanted to attend the funeral of Kosovo leader Ibrahim Rugova and would ask the U.N. mission running the province for permission.


"It is an elementary courtesy for a president of Serbia to go to Kosovo, which is a part of this country's territory and pay due respects to a political representative of the (ethnic) Albanian people," President Boris Tadic told the private Beta news agency in Belgrade.


Rugova died Saturday in Pristina, the provincial capital, months after having been diagnosed with lung cancer. The death of the 61-year-old leader left Kosovo's political scene in disarray, occurring days before U.N.-mediated talks with the Belgrade government were to begin on the province's final status.


Rugova was considered a political adversary by Belgrade for his insistence the restive province be granted full independence from Serbia, even though he had espoused a nonviolence campaign that had won him international respect.


Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign ended a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.


By attending Rugova's funeral on Thursday, Tadic said he wanted to express Serbia's readiness to behave in a "European fashion" with those who champion "political projects that are different and contrary."


"I want to contribute to Serbia's European future," Tadic said in the interview with Beta. "That future is a Serbia which is not a closed country, scared of facing the unknown or those with a different political opinion."