Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica arrived at the semi-autonomous monastic community of Mount Athos, northern Greece, on Sunday on a two-day pilgrimage and said, referring to Greek-Serb relations, "the two peoples will remain united until Doomsday."
Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zijic and a delegation of ministers accompany Kostunica on his visit.
In a brief statement, he said he is pleased to be visiting Mount Athos, terming it the "cradle of the Orthodox faith", while monks welcomed him with the honors of a head of state.
Kostunica and the members of his entourage were due to attend a vigil at the monastery of Hilandariou in the evening, where about 25 monks of Serb origin live. On Monday, he will meet Minister of Macedonia and Thrace George Paschalidis in Thessaloniki, despite the fact he has termed his visit "strictly personal."
Replying to an address from a monk, who said "the steamroller of globalization is sweeping away all traditions and ideals", Kostunica agreed and said this steamroller acted in a violent way in Kosovo.
Kostunica, who is distinguished for strong adherence to the Orthodox Christian faith, had expressed his desire to visit Mount Athos and the monastery of Hilandariou before the Yugoslav elections. In fact, according to certain circles, he had vowed to make such a pilgrimage in the event he won the presidential elections in his country.
He may also be visiting other monasteries on Mount Athos as well and, returning from Thessaloniki on Monday, he might visit the women's monastery in the town of Ormylio in the Halkidiki prefecture.
Provided the initial program is observed in Thessaloniki, he will visit the Aghios Dimitrios Cathedral and lay a wreath at the allied military cemetery of Zejdelik.
Kostunica's scheduled official visit to Athens in December is still pending, while the exact date of his visit has not yet been set.