PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro, Sept 1 (Reuters) - The wife and close family of Kosovo's ailing President Ibrahim Rugova are at his bedside in a U.S. military hospital in Germany, Kosovo newspapers reported on Thursday.
Rugova, icon of the ethnic Albanian drive for independence from Serbia, was taken to the Landstuhl hospital last Saturday reportedly suffering from a bad bout of flu.
A senior foreign diplomat told Reuters on Wednesday the 60-year-old Sorbonne-educated literature professor was "in a very serious condition" with an unspecified illness.
The news sparked concern in Kosovo that Rugova could be incapacitated just weeks ahead of the expected launch of United Nations-mediated talks that he and two million ethnic Albanians hope will lead to independence in 2006.
"Members of the president's family including his wife Fana went to Germany to visit him and are already there," the daily Koha Ditore said. The daily Express said Rugova's personal physician had also gone to the Landstuhl facility.
Rugova's office and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) political party declined to discuss his illness, saying they had no information about any change in Rugova's condition.
The United Nations mission that has run Kosovo since NATO drove Serb forces six years ago also denied any knowledge of an illness grave enough to sideline the veteran leader.
"What I can tell you is that we are aware of the fact that President Rugova has left Kosovo for some medical tests following an announcement last week regarding his health," said U.N. spokesman Neeraj Singh.
"References to the constitutional framework are at this timer speculative, since we have no indication that he is 'temporarily unable to perform his duties'."
Speculation in the popular press spoke of possible cancer but cited no sources or evidence.
"I am afraid that the pessimistic scenarios about Rugova may come true," Express quoted an unnamed diplomat as saying.
A pacifist who has championed his people's independence aspirations for the past 15 years, Rugova is a powerful figurehead who is expected to take the lead role in steering Kosovo's political rivals into talks.
He has no obvious successor in his faction-ridden party, raising the prospect of an LDK power struggle that would probably benefit rival parties which emerged from the 1998-99 guerrilla war to challenge LDK dominance.