Visiting damaged Serbian church in Kosovo, UN envoy pledges action against religious vandalism

17 November 2002

Visiting two Serbian Orthodox churches in Kosovo which were damaged by vandals overnight, the senior United Nations envoy in the province today pledged action against all forms of religious violence.

“You see us here together,” said Michael Steiner, the head of the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo, who was flanked by Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi outside the Church of All Serbian Saints in the town of Djurakovac, where three explosions gutted the building's interior. “We're all united in condemning these acts.”

Mr. Steiner noted that repairs to the church will be financed from the Kosovo Consolidated Budget. “We will start from tomorrow morning to rebuild and to express to the public that we will not tolerate this behaviour,” he told reporters.

Noting that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is set to arrive in the province tomorrow, the envoy said those responsible for the vandalism want to undermine Kosovo's success, especially on the eve of the UN leader's visit. “They will not achieve their aim,” he stressed.

According to the UN, some time around midnight, a series of explosions ripped into two churches which sit about five kilometers apart. The Church of St. Basil, built in 1939 in the village of Ljubovo, was totally destroyed, with only the front façade still standing.

Several UNMIK officials who accompanied the envoy to the area will remain there to launch reconstruction work on one of the churches Monday morning.


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