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Tuesday, June 29, 1999 Published at 04:12 GMT 05:12 UK

World: Europe

Orthodox church attacks Milosevic

Patriarch Pavle: Marking 610th anniversary of Serb defeat by Ottomans

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church has made his harshest and most open denunciation of the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic.

Kosovo: Special Report
At a ceremony marking the anniversary of the medieval Battle of Kosovo, Patriarch Pavle said the president was to blame for the current situation in the province.

He called for urgent action from the United Nations to ensure the survival of the Serb people, who are leaving Kosovo in droves, fearing revenge attacks by Kosovo Albanians.

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen: "If one man is to blame, it is Milosevic"
The patriarch's condemnation came as the first Kosovo Albanian refugees to be repatriated under UN auspices arrived in Pristina.

Many refugees have already returned without UN help.

The influx has provoked panic among Serbs as stories of killings, kidnappings, and the torching of homes by Kosovo Albanians multiply.

Paul Wood reports: "The Orthodox church always seemed to walk hand in hand with Serbian nationalism"
Fears of violence led to the battle anniversary - known as St Vitus Day - being marked in a more low-key ceremony than usual.

In Belgrade, a group of 50 Serbian intellectuals called on Mr Milosevic to resign in view of what they called the "final defeat of national interests and the countless graves of innocent Serbs".

[ image: Father Sava denounced Mr Milosevic]
Father Sava denounced Mr Milosevic
Another church leader, Father Sava, said Mr Milosevic had "brought ruin on the Serb people".

"The Milosevic regime does not support the Christian values we are fighting for and want to preserve," he said.

The Orthodox church commands great respect in Yugoslavia, and in recent years there has been a growing rift between the clergy and the president.

A BBC correspondent in Kosovo, Paul Wood, says Serbs will only hear about the church attacks through the veil of a heavily censored state media.

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