Kosovo president survives roadside bomb

Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova survived without injury on Tuesday when a roadside bomb exploded as he rode to meet visiting European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, police said.

An explosive device planted in a garbage can on the street was detonated as Rugova’s convoy passed on its way to the meeting in the provincial capital Pristina, Kosovo police spokesperson Refki Morina said. One person was injured.

“The injured person’s life was not in danger,” Morina said.

A security guard initially claimed the injured man was part of Rugova’s escort but later said he was a passer-by.

A visibly shaken Rugova attended the meeting with Solana, who is in Kosovo to discuss the formation of a new government following the resignation of prime minister Ramush Haradinaj to face charges at the United Nations war-crimes court.

“Thank God I am saved again because the same thing happened a year ago,” Rugova (61) told reporters after the meeting.
“Unfortunately, there are still people who want to destabilise Kosovo. I condemn this act and the people who do things like this should be stopped.”

The security guard said he believes the bomb, which exploded at about 8.30am local time, was detonated by remote control.

“The blast was so strong that it broke windows on the fifth floor of a nearby building,” he said.

The international community called for calm this month after Haradinaj, a former ethnic Albanian rebel who commanded guerrilla fighters against Serbian forces during Kosovo’s 1998-1999 war, was forced to resign and face war crimes charges.

About 1 000 extra Nato peacekeepers were dispatched to the UN-run province amid fears of a new explosion of violence by Haradinaj loyalists targeting the Serb minority or even UN staff.

Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority demands independence from Serbia and opposes any moves to try former guerrillas in the UN war-crimes court, insisting they were freedom fighters.

Solana later met the commander of Nato-led forces in Kosovo, Yves de Kermabon, as well as chief UN administrator Soren Jessen-Petersen.

“I condemn strongly the attack. We cannot tolerate these kinds of acts. Kosovo is a place which needs a future, not bombs,” Solana told reporters.

Petersen said he was “shocked and outraged” by the bombing.

“Such acts have no support from the population and won’t succeed,” he said.

The Council of Europe and the United States representative office in Kosovo condemned the attack as an act of terrorism.

“This attack on the president of Kosovo, at a time when all democratic forces in the province should be working together to safeguard and promote the fundamental values of democracy and human rights, is an unacceptable act of terrorism,” said council secretary general Terry Davis.

US mission chief Philip Goldberg said the bombing “can only damage efforts to build a peaceful, democratic Kosovo. Such acts of violence and terror have no place in a society dedicated to democratic principles and the rule of law.”

Greece also said it is paying close attention to the situation in the UN-run territory.

“Greece condemns all acts of violence in this particularly sensitive region ... Like its European partners and Nato, Greece is following these developments with concern,” government spokesperson Evangelos Antonaros said.

In a separate statement, Solana praised the “maturity” of Kosovo in keeping the peace following Haradinaj’s resignation, and urged Rugova to “take responsibility” for the formation of the new government.

Haradinaj pleaded not guilty in his first appearance before the UN court on Monday. He is facing 37 charges, involving murder, persecution and rape of civilian Serbs, Roma (gypsies) and ethnic Albanians.

Kosovo has been administered by the UN since a Nato air campaign in 1999 forced Serbian troops under then Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw from the province and end a crackdown on the separatist movement.—Sapa-AFP

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