Prague, 12 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Presidents, prime ministers, and international leaders today said they are shocked and saddened by the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and are also concerned about the repercussions. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the assassination.
Blair said the killing of the pro-Western leader must not be allowed to hinder Serbia's progress toward European integration.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana described Djindjic as "a friend of Europe" and said he believes Serbia will maintain its course.
"I would like to think that the stability of the country is guaranteed, that the leaders of the country are responsible people that will be able to handle the situation properly. I don't think that we have to create a sense of instability or panic. On the contrary, this is a moment to think, to look ahead, and to make reality the dreams, the many dreams that Zoran Djindjic had for his country."
But the head of the Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer, said the killing is "a huge setback to the peace-building and reform process."
Leaders of several neighboring countries and Kosovo's UN administrator, Michael Steiner, called the assassination a blow to democracy.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the EU presidency, said the assassination "underscores Europe's focus to establish security" in the Balkans, after a decade of wars and continuing ethnic upheaval.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer also said during their meeting in Ljubljana today that the assassination is a blow to democracy in the region.
Croatian President Stipe Mesic was among many who commented on the impact the killing will have on the push for democratic reforms that Djindjic supported. "What happened in Belgrade is certainly not good, neither for the growth of democracy in Serbia nor for those of us neighboring Serbia."
EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said the organization "must not allow the assassination to set back the remarkable progress made Serbia toward democracy."
NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said the assassination "demonstrates that anti-democratic forces and extremism are still active in Serbia." Robertson said there will be no sustainable peace or prosperity "until extremists are brought to justice."
For more on Djindjic's assassination, see Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic Assassinated