Namesakes welcome Britain's Blair in Kosovo

9th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former British prime minister Tony Blair received a hero's welcome Friday on a visit to Kosovo from nine boys named after him.

"As you can see your name is quite common in our country," a teenage hostess told Blair on a stage in central Pristina, where several thousand people gathered, many carrying British flags.

The former British prime minister and his wife Cherie were joined on stage by nine boys all named Tony Blair. They sang the Michael Jackson song "We Are The World" against the backdrop of a huge billboard that said "a leader, a friend, a hero" referring to Blair.

All of Kosovo's Tony Blairs were born after the 1999 war between ethnic Albanian fighters in Kosovo and Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's forces. The conflict ended after a NATO air campaign ousted Serbian forces and established a UN protectorate over the territory.

Parents named their newborns after Blair to thank him for his role in leading the international community to intervene to stop the brutal crackdown on the ethnic-Albanian majority in Kosovo by Milosevic.

"I did what was right. I did what was just. I did not regret it then. I do not regret it now," Blair told the ecstatic crowd.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 and Britain was among the first to recognise it.

So far, 69 countries recognise Kosovo as a state, including the United States and most EU countries. Serbia is challenging the legality of the declaration before the top UN court.

© 2010 AFP

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