Pristina, 15 July 1999 (RFE/RL) - Exiled Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova returned home today and pledged to cooperate with NATO and UN officials in charge of the province and with all legitimate political forces there. After weeks of anticipation, Rugova travelled to Pristina from Italy. He was greeted by hundreds of chanting supporters as he began talks with UN Special Representative Sergio de Mello. Rugova arrived in Pristina from neighboring Macedonia. He was accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Christopher Hill.
Later, at a news conference at his Pristina home, Rugova thanked God and NATO for helping to make his homeland free.
He promised to cooperate with NATO forces and the UN civil administration currently helping to rebuild the war-torn province. Rugova said he wants to cooperate with what he called all legitimate political forces in Kosovo.
But Rugova, the shadow-state president of Kosovo, indicated he was not prepared to share power with his main rival, Hashim Thaci. Thaci is the political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), whose soldiers fought against Serbian forces in the province.
Thaci has proclaimed himself head of a UCK-led provisional government. But Rugova stressed today that as far as he is concerned, the international community -- under the auspices of NATO and the U.N. -- now runs Kosovo and will do so until new elections are held.
At the news conference, Rugova also expressed concern about the exodus of other ethnic groups from Kosovo and vowed to make it possible for Serbs and ethnic Albanians to live together. Rugova said the ethnic Albanian community will guarantee the safety of Serbian properties so that they can return to their homes.