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Classified By: Ambassador Michael C. Polt for reasons 1.4(b) and (d) 1. (C) Summary: Despite the impression of improved atmospherics following the May 23 Vienna talks on religious issues, Prime Minister Kostunica continues to work with more conservative elders in the Church to derail efforts by moderate elements to define a balanced and independent SOC position on Kosovo status. The results of the SOC Assembly of Bishops (May 15-27) may also reinforce this effort by opening the way for hard-liners to take important senior posts in the SOC hierarchy. We will continue to work for ways to strengthen SOC moderates including ways such as the Ambassador,s upcoming Contact Group/Quint level with the SOC Kosovo team. End Summary. 2. (C) On May 26, soon to be Bishop Irinej (Dobrijevic) (strictly protect throughout) met with poloff in the wake of the May 23 Vienna talks on religious issues in Kosovo. Irinej (Dobrijevic) was elected Bishop during an assembly of SOC Bishops held in Belgrade from May 15-27 and appointed to preside over Australia and New Zealand, but he is not likely to depart for his new assignment until the fall. As reported in reftel, Irinej (Dobrijevic) is a moderate voice within the Church and has confided his deep concern that the PM is using his influence in the Church to ensure full SOC support for the government,s position in the Kosovo status talks. His appointment as Bishop to Australia and New Zealand has effectively promoted him away from the center of SOC power while keeping his useful ties to Orthodox diaspora groups (and their associated funding sources) in hand. He has assured us that he will seek to remain engaged on Kosovo and in Belgrade until the final settlement. SOC reaction to the Vienna talks -------------------------------- 3. (C) Irinej (Dobrijevic) downplayed reports of an improved atmosphere at the May 23 round of talks (senior GOS negotiator Leon Kojen called it "useful and productive") and offered signs of a continuing effort by the PM to keep the SOC delegates in step with his policy on Kosovo. The composition of the SOC delegation in Vienna, Irinej (Dobrijevic) said, showed how the SOC had been co-opted. He called Bishop Tedosije the lone voice of moderation and said he was mostly marginalized by his superiors, Bishop Irinej of Backa and Bishop Artemije (Embassy note: Irinej (Dobrijevic) has recounted to us in the past how Irinej of Backa has worked openly and sometimes impatiently with senior government officials to silence more moderate voices in the Church. Amfilohije has also reportedly worked behind the scenes in a similar manner. End Embassy note). Bishop Artemije was particularly unhelpful in the aftermath of the May 23 talks by blasting the UNOSEK process in an interview with Belgrade daily Glas Javnosti on May 25. He declared he was "fed up with Albanian promises" and said there was "no progress" at the talks because UNOSEK is "not paying much attention to the results." Meanwhile, the Synod hardens ---------------------------- 4. (C) The outcome of the recent SOC Assembly ofBishops also suggests a hardening of the Holy Syod. In particular, Irinej (Dobrijevic) noted the "astounding" appointment of Bishop Filaret to the Synod, a person who he described as from the extreme right wing of the SOC and one of the only SOC clergy to insist on giving a eulogy at the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic. Irinej (Dobrijevic) told other Emboffs that the election of other new members of the Synod -- particularly "Bishops from Bosnia" -- would likely result in a harder-line SOC leadership. Irinej (Dobrijevic) said that the SOC leadership's top priority (including Patriarch Pavle, Metropolitan Amfilohije) is to keep PM Kostunica in power so as to avoid a Radical government -- he called an SRS government a "nightmare scenario" for the Church. 5. (C) According to Irinej (Dobrijevic), Irinej of Backa has attempted to make political inroads with President Tadic to bring the SOC leadership close with the DS leadership (as it is with the DSS). According to Irinej (Dobrijevic), Tadic BELGRADE 00000879 002 OF 002 reportedly shouted at Irinej of Backa that the DS was not interested in these kinds of ties. Irinej (Dobrijevic) said that Irinej of Backa had never been so directly rebuffed by a GOS official In fact, Irinej (Dobrijevic) told us of one occasion where Irinej of Backa reprimanded the PM for some offense in front of his closest advisors, warning Chief of Staff Nikitovic to stay out of the discussion. Tadic,s reported refusal to develop a relationship with Irinej of Backa may also be related to the fact that Tadic is working behind the scenes with senior Church moderates in an effort to influence the Patriarch,s succession. 6. (C) According to Irinej (Dobrijevic), the Bishop from Backa is often deployed by the Church or by the government as an interlocutor because he is perceived to be a moderate; in reality, says Irinej (Dobrijevic), he often presents different sides to different audiences. Irinej (Dobrijevic) said that Irinej of Backa behaved accordingly in Vienna -- saying "all the right things" during the talks but reverting to a hard-line stance when back in the company of his Bishop colleagues. 7. (C) Comment: Father Irinej (Dobrijevic),s observations provide some important insights into the complex in-fighting among the SOC,s hierarchy, a struggle that has only intensified with Patriarch Pavle,s increasingly frail health and rumors about succession. Father Irinej (Dobrijevic),s effort to forge a realistic, practical, and apolitical SOC position on Kosovo (and other issues of interest to the international community) has had to navigate difficult currents. His work in that regard has strained his relationship with the PM and raised suspicions about his motives among more conservative SOC leaders. We cannot rule out that his frustrations also color his description of developments within the SOC. The PM sees only trouble if the SOC position on Kosovo differs from his own, and he will do his best to ensure people who agree with him stay in charge of the Church. End Comment. POLT Cable: 06BELGRADE879_a WIKILEAKS.ORG