Kosovo's president, Ibrahim Rugova, has finished giving evidence at the war crimes trial of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. The long-term adversaries have been squaring off against each other since Friday, with each blaming the other for the 1999 deportation of about one-third of Kosovo's Albanian population.
With little time left to question Ibrahim Rugova, Slobodan Milosevic got to the point. Or at least, the two main points he bases his defense on. The first: that all his actions were legitimate responses to the actions of Kosovo Albanian terrorists, or the KLA.
Mr. Rugova had earlier testified that the KLA was not a terrorist organization but that its actions represent a legitimate uprising of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians in response to a decade of Serbian violence and repression. Looking directly at Mr. Rugova and speaking in harsh tones, Mr. Milosevic asked him about it: "Mr. Rugova, you came to me and asked me to save you and your family from a possible assassination perpetrated by the KLA," he said." Look me in the eye and tell me whether that is true or not."
"That is not true," responded Mr. Rugova, who never looked at Mr. Milosevic.
The former Yugoslav president got the same reaction with his second line of defense, that he was trying to save Yugoslavia from the West's efforts to destroy it. Mr. Milosevic charged that Mr. Rugova, as part of an age-old plan to get the West to intervene in Kosovo, wrote a leaflet telling ethnic Albanians to leave the province.
But Mr. Rugova insisted the leaflet was a forgery, saying the spelling mistakes in it were ones an Albanian would never make. He said, Belgrade leadership forced the Albanians to leave. When asked how he knew, Mr. Rugova said, "we know who Belgrade's leaders were and who was commander-in-chief of the army. It was the accused," he said. "No further comments are needed."