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Kosovo Starts Five Days Of Mourning For Rugova

Kosovar President Rugova (CTK) 22 January 2006 -- Kosovar lawmakers today observed a minute's silence at the start of five days of official mourning in memory of late President Ibrahim Rugova.

Rugova died at his home in Pristina on 21 January at the age of 61, four months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Rugova will be remembered for championing the idea of a nonviolent struggle for independence from Serbia.

Kosovar politicians pledged to continue his lifelong dream of independence from Serbia, with Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi appealing for unity to achieve Rugova's goal.

Direct talks between Kosovar and Serbian officials were due to begin on 25 January, but the United Nations, which administers Kosovo and is mediating discussions, has postponed the meeting because of Rugova's death.

Rugova's body will lie in state in parliament where mourners will be allowed to pay their last respects for three days, starting 23 January.

The funeral will take place on 26 January in the province's capital, Pristina.


Spotlight On Kosovo

Spotlight On Kosovo

THE WORLD'S NEWEST NATION? The region of Kosovo has a population of more than 2 million, some 90 percent of whom are ethnic Albanians. It was one of the poorest regions in the former Yugoslavia, but has considerable mineral wealth and an enterprising population, many of whom work abroad but keep close contact with Kosovo. All ethnic Albanian political parties seek independence on the principles of self-determination and majority rule. They feel that Serbia lost its historically based claim to what was its autonomous province under the 1974 constitution by revoking that autonomy in the late 1980s and then conducting a crackdown in 1999 that forced some 850,000 people to flee their homes.

Since NATO's intervention that year to stop the expulsions, Kosovo has been under a UN administration (UNMIK). The UN has begun to gradually transfer functions to elected Kosovar institutions. The primary Serbian concerns are physical safety for the local Serbian minority, a secure return for the tens of thousands of Serbian displaced persons, and protection for historic Serbian religious buildings. The main problems affecting all Kosovars, however, are economic. Until Kosovo's final status is clarified and new legislation passed and enforced, it will not be able to attract the investment it needs to provide jobs for its population, which is one of the youngest and fastest growing in Europe. Prosperity is widely seen as the key to political stability and interethnic coexistence in Kosovo, as is the case in much of Southeastern Europe.

For an archive of RFE/RL's coverage of developments in the disputed region of KOSOVO, click here.

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