INTERVIEW-U.N. plan for Kosovo unacceptable-Serb bishop

Published on February 23, 2007, Reuters

Category: Violence Against Christian Serbs and Their Holy Places

By David Brunnstrom

BRUSSELS, Feb 2 (Reuters) - A U.N. plan for the future of Kosovo will never be accepted by the Serb minority or Serbia, the head of the Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo said on Friday.

Bishop Artemije told Reuters in Brussels an imposed solution for the province would destabilise the Balkan region and boost calls for independence in other parts of Europe.

"The proposal is unacceptable to us because it presupposes the separation of Kosovo from Serbia and as such will never be accepted either by the Kosovo Serbs nor the Serbian state," the spiritual leader of Kosovo's Serb minority said.

"Only a solution found through talks and compromise can be a lasting solution," Artemije, speaking through an interpreter, said in an interview after meeting EU Special Representative to Kosovo Stefan Lehne.

The bishop spoke as U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari handed over his plan to set Kosovo on a path to independence to Serb authorities. He would travel to Kosovo's capital, Pristina, later on Friday.

Asked if he was confident Russia would continue to oppose any attempt to impose a solution for Kosovo through the U.N. Security Council, Artemije said: "If Serbia sticks firmly to its position, we are absolutely sure that Russia will do the same. We don't have any doubts about this."

"If the international community imposes a solution it will not bring peace and stability to the region, but rather it will destabilise the region."

Asked what he would be advising his congregation to do in the face of a plan for independence, he said: "We cannot resist physically, but what we can do is not accept it."

Kosovo has been run by the U.N. since 1999 when 11 weeks of bombing by NATO forced the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his forces, accused of killing 10,000 Albanians during a counter-insurgency war.

Kosovo's 100,000 Serbs are a ghettoised minority who saw thousands of their ethnic kin flee a wave of revenge attacks with the end of the 1998-99 Kosovo Albanian war for independence.

Rich in Orthodox religious heritage, the province of two million people holds almost mythic status for Serbs, their so-called cradle stretching back 1,000 years.

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