PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Kosovo's President Ibrahim Rugova congratulated Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday on his election.
Rugova, an ethnic Albanian president of the disputed province of Kosovo, where the majority of its inhabitants are Muslim, called on the new pope to pray for the future of this U.N.-run province.
"I plead with you to continue praying for the formal recognition of (Kosovo's) independence that would calm the soul of my people," Rugova said in a statement.
Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999, following a NATO war aimed at stopping Serb forces crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians. Rugova is at a forefront of the ethnic Albanian demands for independence, while Serbs want the province to remain part of Serbia-Montenegro, a union that replaced Yugoslavia.
Rugova declared two days of mourning following John Paul II's death, whom he met five times. Large photographs of one of those visits are prominently displayed in Rugova's office and residence.