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Yugoslavia: Rugova Returns From Exile To Kosovo

Pristina/Skopje, 15 July (RFE/RL) - Kosovo Albanian political leader Ibrahim Rugova has returned to Kosovo after months in exile. Our correspondent at the border reports that Rugova crossed the Macedonia-Yugoslavia border just before noon local time with senior members of his Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) party on his way to the provincial capital, Pristina. A crowd of around 1,000 people greeted Rugova at the border and thousands more have gathered along the highway at the city of Urosevac (Ferizaj) some 25 kilometers south of Pristina to welcome him.

Rugova told the waiting crowd at the border that he was very happy to be entering a free Kosovo with an international presence. He said he would work to rebuild Kosovo's democratic and economic life and would continue to strive for an independent Kosovo.

Earlier today in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, Rugova said another priority will be to support the international administration in the province until elections take place to see who will govern Kosovo.

Rugova was twice overwhelmingly elected president of Albanian-majority Kosovo in the last decade, in elections that were not recognized by Yugoslavia or the international community. Rugova preached passive resistance to Serbian rule until his leadership was challenged by the emergence of the armed Kosovo Liberation Army.

Rugova was allowed to leave Yugoslavia for Italy during the NATO bombing campaign this spring after being held under virtual house arrest by Serbian forces and after making some controversial televized appearances with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He has been widely criticized for not returning to his people in Kosovo earlier.