Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, who was elected president in 1999, died in a plane crash Thursday near the Bosnian city of Stolac.
Having studied theology in the United States, Trajkovski had been a Methodist lay pastor to a congregation of Roma (Gypsy) before returning to politics when Macedonia seceded from Yugoslavia in 1991.
As a Protestant in a country divided between majority Orthodox and minority Muslims, Trajkovski worked to maintain peace and stability during the conflicts between Serbia and Kosovo. His leadership of a NATO peace deal has been credited with preventing a civil war.
By treating Muslims and Orthodox as equals, Trajkovski was often criticized for being too lenient with Muslim insurgents. However, Trajkovski's faith-inspired approach to government won him the respect of many throughout the world. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and European Commission chief Romano Prodi praised Trajkovski's leadership and lamented his death and what it would mean for the fragile country.
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