On Albania visit, Bill Clinton meets Clintons and Hillarys of Kosovo

By Fatos Bytyci and Florion Goga

TIRANA (Reuters) – Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Monday met 12 children and men from Kosovo who were named after him in gratitude for his role in stopping the 1998-99 Kosovo War.

Clinton, who served as president from 1993 to 2001, is regarded as a hero in Kosovo and Albania for launching NATO air strikes against Serbia’s forces in 1999. The strikes halted the war and allowed nearly 1 million Albanian refugees in Kosovo to return to their homes.

Clinton’s meeting with his namesakes, who ranged in age from about 1 to 23, took place on the main boulevard of Albania’s capital, Tirana. The event was arranged by Albania’s prime minister, Edi Rama, who presented Clinton, 76, with a medal for his role in bringing peace and stability to the Balkans region.

One of the men named after Clinton, Klinton Berisha, told the former president: “We are very proud of what you did for my country and I want to thank you from the deep of my heart.”

Others who spoke at the ceremony included Klinton Gashi, Klinton Bajgora and Klinton Ferizi. They each thanked Clinton, who applauded and laughed as they said their names.

Clinton also met three girls who were named after his wife, Hillary Clinton, who served as U.S. secretary of state under former President Barack Obama.

“Hello! I am not Bill or Clinton, I am Hillary Alidema. Thank you Bill!” said one of them.

“Today, you gave me a great gift, bigger even than the honour,” Clinton said in a speech at the event. He urged peace in Kosovo, where some of the worst ethnic tensions have erupted since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

“Don’t kick people when they’re down,” he said. “Resist the urge to treat people the way they treated you.”

Washington remains Kosovo’s main supporter, both politically and financially.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci and Florion Goga in Tirana; Editing by Matthew Lewis)