Macedonians Mourn Former President Gligorov

Posted January 3rd, 2012 at 11:35 am (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 the age of 94.

Across the country, flags flew at half-staff 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.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called 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.

Once a 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, and became the world's oldest head of state.