BELGRADE, Yugoslavia Oct. 6--Yugoslavia's new president Vojislav Kostunica has met with the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church to ask for spiritual guidance.
Patriarch Pavle, who led a public prayer service for peace and reconciliation here Friday, met with Kostunica Thursday night, according to the news service of the Keston Institute, which monitors religious issues in the former Soviet Union and Eastern European nations.
The institute called Kostunica a practicing member of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and said he was close to the church's leadership.
Ousted Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic conceded defeat Friday in last month's presidential elections, a day after protesters angry at him for clinging to power stormed Belgrade's parliament in support of Kostunica, his democratic rival.
Earlier Friday, Pavle appealed to army chief General Nebojsa Pavkovic to recognize Kostunica as his supreme commander and president of Yugoslavia.
The military, a pillar of the Milosevic regime for 13 years, eventually cast its lot with Kostunica Friday.
"I appeal to you and our people's army to publicly accept what our people and the democratic world accept--Vojislav Kostunica as the president of Yugoslavia and president of the Supreme defense council of our army," the patriarch said in an open letter to Pavkovic quoted by the Yugoslav Beta news agency.
Such a gesture would not amount to taking sides, but to "remaining on the side of the people's will, truth, justice and the rule of law," the partriarch added.
Also Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov earlier met with the patriarch as part of a crucial diplomatic mission to bring about a peaceful end to the crisis over the disputed September 24 elections. Milosovic's opponents claimed the long-time Yugoslav leader was trying to steal the election by refusing to admit that Kostunica had won more than the 50 percent plurality needed to win outright.
Russia, once Milosevic's staunchest foreign ally, Friday recognized the election victory of Kostunica. With the military, Russia and the Serbian Orthodox Church against him, Milosevic's reign as YUgoslavia's strongman was at an end.
Unlike the military and Russia, though, the church had long been opposed to Milosevic's rule.