PRISTINA (Reuters) - Flags flew at half staff across Kosovo on Wednesday in honor of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, who is seen as a figure of national importance in their country for having written a letter threatening Serbia if it attacked.
Bush died last week at the age of 94.
To Albanians who make up majority in Kosovo, he is best known for his 1992 letter to then President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic in which he warned him not to start a conflict in Kosovo, then still part of Serbia after Yugoslavia broke up.
“The United States will be prepared to employ military force against the Serbians in Kosovo and in Serbia proper,” Bush wrote to Milosevic.
Under Bush’s successor Bill Clinton, the United States led NATO bombing of Serbian forces in 1999 to halt killing and expulsions of Albanians during a counter-insurgency. After Serbian troops pulled out, Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
“I remember when the old Bush set the red lines to Milosevic not to touch us. From that day we had two supporters, God in the sky and America on earth,” said Shyqyri Nici, 70, pensioner.
On Wednesday, teachers across the country dedicated the first morning classes to the former U.S. President and the relations between two countries. Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said the day of mourning was announced as a sign of respect for Bush’s contribution “for the freedom of Kosovo.”
Reporting by Fatos Bytyci