Macedonians Mourn Former President Gligorov

Posted January 3rd, 2012 at 5:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Macedonians have held a national day of mourning for the nation's first democratically elected president, Kiro Gligorov, who died Sunday at age 94.

Flags flew at half-staff across the country Tuesday as a private funeral was held at a cemetery in the capital, Skopje.

Mr. Gligorov died in his sleep Sunday night, surrounded by his family.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls President Gligorov “a friend to the United States” and a leader whose vision for his country still serves as an example for Macedonia and the region.

A one-time top communist official, Mr. Gligorov became president of Macedonia in 1991 when it was still part of Yugoslavia. He peacefully led the country to independence, avoiding the wars that raged in other Yugoslav republics.

Under Mr. Gligorov's guidance, Macedonia joined the United Nations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia — a concession to neighboring Greece, which sees the use of the name Macedonia as laying future territorial claims to its own northern province of Macedonia. The dispute continues to this day.

Mr. Gligorov was seriously injured in a 1995 assassination attempt, suffering head injuries and losing an eye in a car bombing. No suspects were ever arrested, but he continued his presidency until his term ended in 1999.

JOURNALIST FROM SKOPJE, MIRJANA MATESKA: “As a journalist in a part of my professional career, I had the opportunity to report on President Gligorov's activities and I can say the president was a person, a leader and a strategist and here in the Balkans, there is no replacement of his equal.''

CITIZEN FROM SKOPJE, STANKO LEFKOV: “As a citizen from Macedonia, I can say he was a very smart president who worked a lot and will be remembered for achieving Macedonia's independence. Also for the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army without bloodshed (from Macedonia), and getting Macedonians home from the JNA (Yugoslav Peoples Army). Such a move saved a lot of lives.''