PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro, Sept 5 (Reuters) - The Kosovo Albanian pro-independence leader and president, Ibrahim Rugova, said on Monday he had lung cancer but was optimistic he would recover.
Here are five facts about Rugova:
-- Dubbed the "Gandhi of the Balkans" for his advocacy of non-violent resistance to Serbian oppression, Rugova, now 60, dominated Kosovo Albanian politics in the 1990s until the outbreak of armed conflict in 1998.
-- His Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) led the campaign, creating a parallel, underground state. But the literature professor, who habitually wears a silk foulard over a necktie, misjudged the popular mood towards the end of the 1990s.
-- He was sidelined by the Kosovo Liberation Army guerrilla insurgency, which triggered a harsh crackdown by Serb forces and eventually provoked NATO into its first war, taking sides with the Albanians and bombing Yugoslavia to force it to withdraw troops from Kosovo.
-- Ever popular, Rugova rebounded from the setback and became the province's first president in 2002, albeit under the protection of the United Nations. He was elected to a second term as president in December 2004 and redoubled his call for the independence of Kosovo from Serbia.
-- If he recovers from his cancer, Rugova can expect to take Kosovo and its two million ethnic Albanians into talks this year on their desire for independence from Serbia.
But the LDK has no apparent successor to Rugova, and if his health does not recover the faction-ridden party seems destined for a messy power struggle that could once again see former rebel commanders resurgent.