KESTON NEWS SERVICE
Issue 9, Article 11, 14 September 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
______________________________________
SUMMARY:
The chief spokesman for KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo,
has vigorously denied Serbian Orthodox allegations that troops of the United
Arab Emirates (UAE) serving under KFOR command have collaborated with
attacks on Serbian Orthodox churches in the internationally-administered
province. Lt. Col. PATRICK POULAIN told Keston that such allegations were
`completely wrong', although he confirmed that all his information derives
solely from reports submitted by the UAE troops themselves.

Thursday 14 September 2000
KOSOVO: KFOR REJECTS, ORTHODOX STAND BY ALLEGATIONS
AGAINST UAE TROOPS

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

The chief spokesman for KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo,
has vigorously denied Serbian Orthodox allegations that troops of the United
Arab Emirates (UAE) serving under KFOR command have collaborated with
attacks on Serbian Orthodox churches in the internationally-administered
province. Lt. Col. PATRICK POULAIN told Keston News Service from
Pristina on 12 September that such allegations were `completely wrong',
although he confirmed that all his information derives solely from reports
submitted by the UAE troops themselves.

Fr SAVA JANJIC, a close aide to Bishop ARTEMIJE of Raska and Prizren,
rejected KFOR's dismissal of the diocese's claims. He insisted to Keston on 13
September from the Gracanica monastery near Pristina that the diocese's
allegations against the UAE contingent still stood.

The Orthodox diocese of Raska and Prizren declared in a statement that the 20
UAE troops guarding the Church of St Elijah in Vucitrn, central Kosovo,
`permitted Albanian terrorists to carry out an attack on the Church' in the early
hours of 18 August. The diocese also claimed that UAE troops denied entrance
to Vucitrn to Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren and his entourage when
they tried to visit the site the following day (see KNS 11 September 2000).

Lt. Col. Poulain denied that any UAE troops were guarding St Elijah's Church
as it had already been ruined during an earlier attack. `KFOR only guards
Orthodox churches that are still in use,' he declared. As for the claim that
Bishop Artemije and his entourage were barred from visiting the site, Lt. Col.
Poulain declared that he was `not aware' of such an incident as no reports on it
had come in, but said he would seek further information. `It is possible that a
safety zone was set up around the target to make sure that no other devices
were still in the building.'

Fr Sava was with the bishop when they attempted to visit Vucitrn on 19 August
in the company of one US policeman from the United Nations Mission in
Kosovo (UNMIK). `UAE soldiers did not allow us to see the church, which
was vandalised only last summer and about which we now had a report of a
new attack,' he told Keston. `They insisted that we went to their HQ to discuss
it with their officers. For us that was impossible because we sneaked into the
town escorted by only one police vehicle and if we stayed there longer a large
group of Albanians could have gathered.' Fr Sava reported that nowhere else
does KFOR prevent Serbian Orthodox representatives from `visiting our
churches, because they belong to us'. `I do not think that the UAE soldiers did
that because of some "devices in the building" because they themselves moved
around quite freely, with their linen hanging on a line just in front of our
church.'

Lt. Col. Poulain also rejected Serbian Orthodox allegations that the UAE had
collaborated in the destruction of the church of St Nicholas in the nearby
village of Banjska on 30 January 2000. The diocese declared that it had
`learned from well-informed sources that the attack was coordinated with UAE
troops, who withdrew at the decisive moment and permitted the terrorists to
destroy the church'. Lt. Col. Poulain declared that according to KFOR's
information the church had caught fire because of an electrical fault and, far
from collaborating with an attack, the UAE troops had helped to extinguish the
blaze.

However, Father Sava describes KFOR's information that there had been a fire
as a `blatant lie', insisting that the church had been destroyed by an explosion.
`It is impossible that an electric fault or a fire would have damaged the church
like a mine or an explosive device. When the church was blown up there was
no fire, according to our sources.'

Citing a source who `did not want his name to be mentioned', Fr Sava insisted
that UAE troops guarding St Nicholas' Church `suddenly left the church several
hours before the incident without any explanation'. The church was then blown
up. `In our opinion this cannot be a simple coincidence. There is no need to
mention that the
perpetrators have never been found.'

Lt. Col. Poulain admitted to Keston that as the UAE troops are `responsible for
the sector' they are the only KFOR presence in the area concerned and that
therefore the KFOR command derives all its information on events in this area
from the UAE contingent. However, he stressed that the UAE troops are
`supervised' by French KFOR troops. The UAE troops have a `very precise
mission', he explained. `When they report it is the truth.' Asked what would
happen if there were doubts about the veracity of their reports he declared: `If
there is doubt, there is an investigation.'

A reopening of the investigation into the Banjska church destruction might be
difficult though. A KFOR source told Keston that KFOR would no longer have
records dating back to January when the destruction of the Banjska church took
place and that many of the KFOR personnel then on duty would have been
rotated out of the province.

Asked to explain why he believed the Serbian Orthodox diocese and KFOR
had reached such radically different versions of events, Lt. Col. Poulain
laughed. `That's up to you to decide,' he declared. Asked whether he agreed that
the question came down to whether one believed the Orthodox diocese or the
UAE troops, he replied: `Yes.'

On 11 September Lt. Col. SALIM AL-SOOBUSI, spokesman for the UAE
Defence Ministry in Dubai, promised to respond in writing to Keston's
questions faxed to him the previous day about the alleged role of his country's
troops in the destruction of the Orthodox churches. By the end of the working
day on 13 September, Keston had still not received a response.

The UAE has some 1,200 troops under KFOR command in Kosovo. Most are
serving in the Northern sector, with a few in the Eastern sector. The official
WAM news agency reported from Dubai on 19 August that the UAE defence
minister offered to build 50 mosques in Kosovo at his own expense. Sheikh
MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL-MAKTOUM's project would be carried out
with the help of UAE troops serving in the peacekeeping force in the province,
WAM added. Fr Sava told Keston that Albanian politicians had rejected the
defence minister's offer.

`We still insist on our position that the UAE contingent is very pro-Albanian
and is not taking enough care of our churches,' Father Sava concluded. `In
Vucitrn municipality where very few Serbs remain, out of eight Orthodox
parish churches only one remains intact, in Gojbulja village where only Serbs
live.' He also claims that UAE troops have failed to protect Serbian property
more generally. (END)


Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.