26 March 2006

Kosovo bishop warns of terror, says sovereignty there would spur extremism

THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER (USA), Sunday, February 12, 2006, Patrick O'Donnell Plain Dealer Reporter Parma


Giving the Kosovo region independence would encourage terrorism and jihadists inside Europe that rival al-Qaida, the bishop of Kosovo warned Saturday.


Artemije Radosavljevic, who heads the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, spoke to more than 100 members of St. Sava Cathedral in Parma on Saturday afternoon.


Though his visit featured typical gestures of goodwill and bonding -- traditional dances by the church's youth and a banquet of Serbian food like kielbasa and cabbage -- Bishop Artemije gave the crowd the same pleas that he is making in Pittsburgh and Chicago on his nearly two-week trip across the United States.


"It is my wish to sound the alarm," he said. "Working for the independence of Kosovo is to prepare, consciously or unconsciously, the ground for a militant jihad and terrorism in the heart of Europe, which will put at risk all democratic values of Europe and of America itself."


Representatives of Serbia and its Albanian-dominated province of the former Yugoslavia are scheduled to begin discussing the region's future Feb. 20 in Vienna, with Albanian Muslims demanding independence.


The United Nations took control of Kosovo in 1999 after a NATO bomb campaign to stop former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on Albanian separatists.


Bishop Artemije, who opposed Milosevic and Serb violence against Albanians before the bombings, has since repeatedly complained that the Albanian "jihadists" have returned the violence -- all while the United Nations is supposed to maintain order.


The United Nations, he said Saturday, has ignored a series of "terrorist" acts by Albanians during the last several years. He said the organization has allowed murders of Serbian Christians by Albanians to go unsolved and vandalism and destruction of churches to go unpunished.


"What is even more frightening . . . is the fact that the international community, instead of taking steps to stem this terrorism, now rewards it," he said.


Granting independence to Kosovo, he said, would only show other extremists that violence works. Instead, he said, the international community should push the sides to reach a compromise under which they can coexist in the province.


"Think about it before it is too late," he urged.