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Ethnic Albanian Leader Gets Danish Prize

  • Anthony Georgieff

Copenhagen, Feb 20 (RFE/RL) - The leader of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, Ibrahim Rugova, has been awarded the Danish Paul Lauritsen Peace and Freedom Prize. Rugova received the prize yesterday in Copenhagen.

The kosovo province of Serbia is more than 90 percent ethnic Albanian, and ethnic Albanians have long asserted that they suffer discrimination by the Belgrade government.

The prize, which was established by a now-deceased Danish anti-Nazi fighter, is worth about $ 17,000. It was presented to Rugova by the Chairman of Denmark's Parliament, Erling Olsen. Rugova also met a number of Danish officials, including Denmark's Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen.

Rugova first came to prominence in 1989. As Chairman of the local Writers' Union in Pristina, the principal city of Kosovo, he organized a petition, signed by 215 intellectuals, against Serbia's revocation of Kosovo's autonomy that year. Since December 1989, he has been the leader of the "Kosovo Democratic League," the party of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.

In 1992, in a vote not recognized by Belgrade, Rugova was elected President of the self-declared independent Republic of Kosovo, which is recognized only by Albania.

Rugova advocates a political solution to the Kosovo issue.

Rugova yesterday said that one of his concerns is that the Dayton peace accords for former Yugoslavia do not provide for a solution to the Kosovo issue.

The Paul Lauritsen Prize had been given to organisations and individuals that have fought for peace, freedom and human rights. Among previous recipients is the former Czechoslovak human rights organization "Charter 77."