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Yugoslavia: Patriarch Wants Army To Recognize Kostunica

Belgrade, 6 October 2000 (RFE/RL) - The head of Serbia's Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle, is urging the leadership of Yugoslavia's armed forces to recognize Vojislav Kostunica as the country's new president and commander-in-chief. Pavle made the appeal today in an open letter to Yugoslav armed forces commander Nebojsa Pavkovic, calling on him to "stay with the people and respect its electoral will." Serbian opposition leaders echoed the patriarch's words, at a rally attended by tens of thousands in Belgrade, a day after a popular uprising forced the apparent collapse of the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Earlier today, Russia -- a traditional Milosevic backer -- joined Western nations in welcoming Kostunica as his legitimate successor.

In a reversal of policy, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov flew into Belgrade and met with Kostunica, conveying a message of congratulations from President Vladimir Putin on his electoral victory. He later was seen on television meeting with Milosevic, presumably in Belgrade.

Earlier today, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia set up an emergency council to oversee the transition to power.