Rugova in Britain to promote return of Kosovo refugees
May 14, 1999
LONDON (CNN) -- Moderate Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova on Friday insisted that he still holds influence over ethnic Albanians and said his top priority was to ensure the return of refugees to Kosovo.
Rugova met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in London Friday to discuss plans to help the hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians who have fled the Serbian province return home.
"To make conditions for ... international security forces in Kosovo, to create security for the people, and to return the people to Kosovo, is the major objective for us now, for me personally and for the people of Kosovo," Rugova told CNN.
Rugova was unexpectedly allowed to leave Yugoslavia last week after being held, according to aides, under virtual house arrest by Belgrade authorities since the beginning of NATO airstrikes in late March.
Responding to accusations that he has lost credibility among Kosovo Albanians, Rugova defended his leadership.
"I am two times (their) elected leader, I have a right to speak ... and even these days ... the (refugee) camps of Macedonia, Albania accept me, respect me," Rugova said.
He said he was encouraging unity among various Kosovo political groups including the Kosovo Liberation Army, even though the KLA has criticized him for promoting negotiations with Yugoslavia.
"I try to work together with the groups, the KLA ... it is much better for us, for victory and for the return of the people (to Kosovo)," he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
NATO dismisses Serb pullout, knocks out electricity
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