CEOL - YU says Kosovo churches being vandalized

BELGRADE, Dec 23, 1999 -- (Reuters) Ethnic Albanians have vandalized 76 Orthodox churches and other religious shrines in the Serbian province of Kosovo since the arrival of a NATO-led force in June, Yugoslavia charged, calling for urgent action by the U.N. Security Council.

In a letter to the council president circulated on Wednesday, Yugoslav U.N. envoy Vladislav Jovanovic called the acts "an 'ethnic cleansing' of the most hideous type."

"According to the available data, corroborated also by statements of the representatives of UNMIK (the U.N. Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo), 76 Orthodox churches, chapels, monasteries and other religious shrines have been vandalized since the deployment of KFOR (the NATO-led Kosovo Force) and UNMIK," he wrote.

"Over 10,000 icons and other sacral objects have been looted or destroyed and tens of thousands of books in the Serbian language" burned, along with a large number of foreign books, Jovanovic alleged.

"The vandalism of Albanian terrorists and extremists is not met with appropriate measures and actions by KFOR and UNMIK, whose task is to provide effective protection and security to Serbs and Montenegrins, as well as other non-Albanians," Jovanovic said.

He asked the Security Council to take "most urgent measures to protect the religious and cultural shrines of the Serbian people" in Kosovo and to "implement appropriate mechanisms of international protection of cultural heritage."

KFOR and UNMIK entered Kosovo in June after an 11-week NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia designed to halt the repression of Kosovo's Albanian majority and force the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops and police from the province.

Jovanovic has repeatedly complained that KFOR and UNMIK have violated Kosovo's status as a part of Yugoslavia while failing to protect Serbian and other non-Albanian residents, many of whom have been forced to flee.

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