Secretary of state pledges United States will keep helping Kosovo build democracy
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed her condolences on the death of President Ibrahim Rugova of Kosovo, saying the people of Kosovo have lost a great leader, and the United States a great friend.
Rugova died of lung cancer at his Pristina home on January 21.
In her statement issued later the same day, Rice pledged that the United States would continue to work with the people of Kosovo to build a democratic society as the nation enters "a political process to determine its future."
Direct negotiations were to have started January 25 to decide whether Kosovo, with its ethnic Albanian majority, would win independence or remain part of Serbia. (See related article.)
The Kosovo province of Serbia-Montenegro has been administered by the United Nations since NATO’s 1999 air war drove out Yugoslav Serb forces following widespread human-rights abuses. On October 24, 2005, the U.N. Security Council endorsed final-status talks, which could lead either to independence or greater autonomy for Kosovo, according to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
With Rugova’s funeral now scheduled for January 25, the Reuters news agency quoted United Nations special envoy Martti Ahtisaari as saying those talks in Vienna, Austria, would be rescheduled for early February.
Following is the State Department text of Rice’s statement:STATEMENT BY SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE
Death of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova
I wish to express my condolences to the people of Kosovo upon the death of President Ibrahim Rugova. President Rugova led his people through challenging times and earned the world's respect for his advocacy of democracy and peace. Even while battling his final illness, President Rugova worked to bring unity to Kosovo's leaders and hope to its people. The United States has lost a great friend today. The people of Kosovo have lost a great leader.
President Rugova's death comes just as Kosovo enters a political process to determine its future. Despite the loss of his leadership, this process will go on. The United States will continue to work with all the people of Kosovo to build a society based upon the principles of democracy, human rights and inter-ethnic tolerance that President Rugova valued so deeply.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)