|INTERVIEW-Brovina goes from jail to Kosovo presidency bid |
By Fredrik Dahl
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Just over a year ago, Flora Brovina
was in a grim Serbian prison. Now she is campaigning to become president of
And the ethnic Albanian human rights activist, doctor and poet is delivering
a message of tolerance and co-existence, of reconciliation rather than
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority hopes, and many minority Serbs fear, that a
general election on Saturday will move the U.N.-governed Yugoslav province
closer to independence.
Brovina, candidate of the Democratic Party of Kosovo of former guerrilla
leader Hashim Thaci, makes clear independence is also her aim but vows to try
and break down ethnic barriers if elected, saying Kosovo belongs to all its
"I personally insist that all citizens must be equal and not divided into a
first and a second class," she told Reuters, using words which are in tune
with international officials hoping the vote will foster a more multi-ethnic
Arrested during NATO's 1999 bombing to end Belgrade's repression of Kosovo's
Albanians, Brovina was convicted of associating with separatist guerrillas
and jailed for 12 years on terrorism charges in a trial widely condemned as a
She was released after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic as Yugoslav president
in a popular revolt last year.
APPEAL TO SERBS
Brovina has urged Kosovo's beleaguered Serbs to cast their ballots for the
new 120-seat assembly to be set up after the November 17 election, which in
turn will elect a president, arguing the vote is a great opportunity for them
"Serbs are citizens of Kosovo and they have to be part of Kosovo," Brovina,
blonde, elegantly dressed in black and showing no trace of her difficult 19
months in jail, said in an interview late on Monday.
Popular among many Kosovo Albanians, she will still face an uphill struggle
in the race for the largely symbolic post of president against veteran
political leader Ibrahim Rugova.
Brovina insisted that despite her time in prison and atrocities committed agai
nst her people, she did not seek revenge. Serbs too were victims of
Milosevic, she said.
Many Serbs oppose the vote, arguing it will be a step to independence for
Kosovo and also that their living conditions are so miserable they should
boycott the poll in protest.
Brovina said independence was inevitable, a "life or death" issue for Kosovo,
but she said it would be positive for Serbs as well as it would lead to
better times for the impoverished economy.
Fearing Albanian reprisals, about 180,000 Serbs fled Kosovo after government
forces withdrew following 11 weeks of NATO bombing. Many of those remaining,
numbering about 100,000, live in enclaves protected by heavily armed NATO-led
Brovina, 51, vowed to fight such "ghettos."
"An independent Kosovo will guarantee the minorities equality," she said.
But Brovina accused Belgrade's new leadership of continuing to manipulate the
Milosevic may be awaiting trial at the U.N. war crimes court in The Hague for
atrocities in Kosovo, but "Milosevic's system is still in power in Belgrade,"
Submitted by Katarina Tepesh
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