Kosovo bishop to take seat on local council

WASHINGTON, Feb 26, 2000 -- (Reuters) A moderate Serb Orthodox bishop from Kosovo has agreed to take the Serb seat on the interim administrative council in the province, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on Friday.

Bishop Artemije Radosavljevic of Raska-Prizren, who is president of the Serb National Council, also undertook to encourage Serb participation in other institutions sponsored by the UN administration there, she told reporters.

Albright met the bishop at the State Department on Friday in an attempt to promote the U.S. aim of a multiethnic society in Kosovo, where a small Serb minority has stayed on among the ethnic Albanian majority.

The province, though theoretically part of Serbia, in effect become a UN protectorate after NATO bombed Yugoslavia and Serbian forces withdrew last year.

Albright said: "We reaffirmed our common commitment to a multiethnic and democratic Kosovo and the importance we both attach to full participation of the Serb community."

"He indicated to me his intention to lead the Serb National Council, of which he is president, to take the seat reserved for the Serb representative on Kosovo's interim administrative council," she added.

The bishop did not speak to reporters at the State Department but in New York earlier this week he painted a different picture of how he saw Kosovo's future, saying that the idea of a democratic and multiethnic Kosovo had failed.

"What did happen in Kosovo was, basically, one repression supplanting another.... The repression of the autocratic regime in Belgrade was simply exchanged for a new repression, governed by and run by the Albanian extremists," he said.

The "human tragedy" that followed the arrival of NATO-led KFOR troops last June was a terrible toll to pay for peace, he said. Some 500 Serbs and other non-Albanians have been killed, 80 Serbian Orthodox churches destroyed and around 200,000 Serbs evicted along with 50,000 other non-Albanians, he added.

A State Department statement on Friday said Albright recognized the plight of Kosovo Serbs. "(They) live in constant fear and are frightened of leaving their homes," it said.

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