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Orthodox Leaders Denounce Milosevic

Serbian Orthodox Church leaders sided with the opposition in the country’s political struggle for the first time Thursday, accusing President Slobodan Milosevic of destroying the country and risking war to stay in power.

The church statement encouraged opposition leaders, who for the past six weeks have drawn tens of thousands of people into the streets to demand that Milosevic reinstate the results of Nov. 17 local elections won by opposition candidates.

The daily protests are the strongest challenge to nearly a decade of Milosevic’s authoritarian rule, and the support of the Serbian Orthodox Church makes the protests all the stronger.

Openly taking sides for the first time, the church accused Milosevic of having “trampled over our glorious history … name, dignity, spiritual and national values, brought the nation and the country to total collapse, and made people beggars.”

The church statement was its harshest ever against the president.