JANEZ DRNOVSEK, 57
Former president of Slovenia
Former President Janez Drnovsek, who helped lead Slovenia to independence from Yugoslavia and later enthralled many of his countrymen by adopting a New Age lifestyle, died yesterday, his office said.
Mild-mannered but resolute, Mr. Drnovsek became a political icon in part for working to keep violence at a minimum when Slovenia gained independence in 1991.
He later led the country to European Union and NATO membership. In recent years, as he battled cancer, he made a radical transformation to a holistic lifestyle and wrote several New Age-influenced books.
Mr. Drnovsek was the Slovenian representative in the Yugoslav federation's collective presidency when his region declared its independence.
In response, Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic sent tanks to Slovenian borders, triggering a brief war. But Mr. Drnovsek used his position to push for negotiations, eventually orchestrating a deal for the peaceful withdrawal of the Yugoslav army.
Mr. Drnovsek was Slovenia's prime minister for a decade before being elected president in 2002. He did not run for a second term last year.
In 2005, he acknowledged that doctors had found what he described as "formations" - apparently cancer - on his lungs and liver in 2001.
He said he had realized that doctors could not cure him. Instead, he insisted that he had cured himself simply by changing his diet, lifestyle and thinking.
Mr. Drnovsek turned into something of a New Age guru.
"It is hard for me to say if the change was only caused by the illness," Mr. Drnovsek told the Associated Press last year. "It is true that the illness acts as a shock - it awakens one."