CEOL
Thaci launches Kosovo election campaign

PRISTINA, Sep 14, 2000 -- (AFP) The former political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) launched his party's campaign for Kosovo's first post-war municipal elections Wednesday with a upbeat rally.

Thousands of supporters of Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) packed Pristina's university sports hall to mark the official start of the 45-day buildup the poll, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

"I greet you, dear friends, on this very important day in the history of Kosovo, which marks the opening of the election campaign, the day when for the first time Kosovo is preparing for free and democratic elections," Thaci said.

"You are the liberators of Kosovo and it is you who will decide Kosovo's future," he declared, "It's you who will build a free and independent Kosovo ... you will integrate Kosovo with western Europe."

October 28 will see the first elections to be held in Kosovo since the United Nations took over the running of the province in June last year after the end of a civil war between Thaci's KLA and Yugoslav forces.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was charged by the UN mission in Kosovo with organizing the poll, and the head of the mission, Daan Everts, took the opportunity of the rally to address its supporters.

"It's very special to here today with a party that is so proud of its origins," Everts said.

"This party holds the key to the future of Kosovo, but it does not do so alone. Together with other parties you will open the door on a new era for Kosovo, an era of multiparty democracy."

"The entire world is watching you," he warned, before switching from English into Albanian to urge the crowd to "show the world that Kosovo is ready to pass the democratic test."

The trumphant crowd cheered all the speakers at the packed rally and was so large it spilled out into the streets outside, with up to 6,000 mainly young supporters waving Albanian banners and chanting Thaci's name.

In the hall the climaax of the celebrations was the appearance on stage of a young woman in a camouflage KLA uniform, who sang a song in honor of Adem Jashari, the guerrilla movement's most famous martyr.



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