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U.S. President Bush said Rugova was "a voice for reason and moderation" (file photo) (epa)
23 January 2006 -- Serbian President Boris Tadic said today that he would like to attend the funeral of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova, calling it an act of "elementary courtesy."
Tadic said he wanted to demonstrate Serbia's readiness to behave in what he called a "European fashion," even toward those who champion different political goals.
Rugova, 61, died of lung cancer after a long illness on 21 January. He had championed Kosovo's independence but backed non-violent resistance to Serbian rule.
Also today, U.S. President George W. Bush said he was deeply saddened by the Rugova's death.
In an official statement issued by the U.S. mission in Pristina, Bush said he viewed Rugova as a "true friend." He called the deceased leader a "voice for reason and moderation" who laid the groundwork for a peaceful future in Kosovo.
Rugova's body is now lying in state in Kosovo's parliament in Pristina and the government has declared 15 days of official mourning.
Thousands of mourners are expected to pay their respect before his funeral on 26 January.
(compiled from agency reports)
Rugova at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters in 1998
IBRAHIM RUGOVA visited RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on December 18, 1998, in order to highlight the oppression of Albanian-language media in Kosovo by the government of then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
The Serbian Information Ministry on December 18, 1998 threatened two newspapers in Kosovo with prosecution for allegedly "stirring up terrorism and calling for the violent overthrow of the constitutional order." Serbia passed an information law two months earlier, setting fines for articles perceived to threaten the constitutional order.
Rugova said Serbian authorities have subjected Albanian-language media in the province to years of repression, shutting down some 90 periodicals, barring Albanian-language television programs and banning or jailing local journalists. He said there were two Albanian-language dailies left - "Bujku" and "Koha Ditore" - which continue to function. Rugova also said Serbian forces could, in his words "exterminate Kosovars next spring in a couple of days if they wanted to." He said this is why it is his goal to achieve a negotiated interim political settlement with the help of the international community.
For a complete archive of RFE/RL's coverage of events in Kosovo, click here.