Religious leaders to meet bringing peace in Kosovo

Religious leaders representing communities in Kosovo will meet in the western town of Pec Tuesday for a two-day conference on how to bring peace to their province. The meeting, organized by Norwegian Church Aid, will bring together representatives of the Serb Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and Kosovo's Islamic, Jewish and Evangelical communities in a rare public gathering, a statement from NGA said.

The conference will aim "to identify desired joint initiatives to promote peace, mutual respect, common life and cooperation through an institutionalized form of dialogue and concrete project activities," a statement from Norwegian Church Aid said. The meeting will take place inside the NATO-guarded Pec Patriarchate, in the western town of Pec .

It comes just before the continuation of U.N.-mediated talks on the province's future and amid fears of an increase in tension between the communities as the conclusion of the talks planned for the end of 2006 comes closer. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, who are predominantly Muslim, want the province to become independent. Serbs, who are Orthodox, prefer some links with Serbia .

Kosovo has been run as a U.N. protectorate since mid-1999, when a NATO air war halted a crackdown by Serb forces on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians. The province was the seat of the medieval Serbian state and the Serbian Orthodox Church. Serbs cherish it as the cradle of their history and culture, reports the AP.

N.U.