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News draws a mixed reaction in Balkans

Associated Press / March 12, 2006
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BELGRADE -- Former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic's death while imprisoned on war crimes charges drew a mixed reaction yesterday in the region that he pushed into war more than a decade ago.

In Milosevic's homeland, Serbia, the former president's supporters declared his death a ''huge loss" for the Balkan country and its people, and blamed it on the UN tribunal in The Hague, where he was being tried.

But in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo, which were ravaged by the conflicts masterminded by Milosevic, officials and ordinary citizens alike said his death brought some justice to the victims.

''Finally, we have some reason to smile, God is fair," said Hajra Catic, who heads an association of women who lost their loved ones in the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Srebrenica Muslims by the Serb troops.

Milosevic, who suffered chronic heart ailments and high blood pressure, was found in his bed at the detention center and apparently died of natural causes, the tribunal said.

Catic and other victims of a decade of bloodshed under Milosevic's rule also expressed regret that he did not live to be convicted and sentenced for genocide and other war crimes listed in his Hague tribunal indictment.

''It is a pity he didn't live to the end of the trial to get the sentence he deserved," Croatian President Stipe Mesic said.

In Belgrade, Milosevic's supporters mourned the death of their former boss.

''Milosevic did not die in The Hague, he was killed in The Hague," said Ivica Dacic, a senior official in Milosevic's Socialist Party. ''But, he had managed to defend the national and state interests of Serbia and the Serb people, and everybody should be grateful to him for that."

Milosevic had asked the court in December to let him go to Moscow for treatment. But the tribunal refused. He had been examined by doctors after complaints of fatigue or ill health that delayed his trial, but the tribunal could not immediately say when he last had a medical checkup.

Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who faces immense international pressure to hand over the remaining war crimes suspects to the tribunal, had no immediate comment.

President Boris Tadic expressed condolences to Milosevic's family and his Socialist Party.

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