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Serbia: Mourners Pay Final Respects To Milosevic

  • Jeremy Bransten --> Supporters of the late Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic waited today to enter the Museum of the Revolution, where his coffin is displayed in Belgrade (epa) The coffin bearing the remains of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was put on public view today, in a museum in a Belgrade suburb, ahead of his planned burial in his hometown on Saturday. Throughout the day, hundreds of Milosevic supporters, mostly elderly, stood in line outside, waiting to pay their final respects to the ex-Yugoslav leader.

PRAGUE, March 16, 2006 (RFE/RL) - In an ironic twist of history, Milosevic -- who undid Josip Tito’s legacy of a united Yugoslavia -- is lying in state in the building once used to display foreign gifts acquired by the late Communist leader.

The museum is just a few hundred meters from Tito’s grave, and next door to Milosevic’s own former residence, in the upscale Belgrade suburb of Dedinje.

Milosevic supporters chose this location after the authorities refused their requests for more prominent venues, including the downtown federal parliament building.

Today's crowd was small but emotional. Many referred to the ex-Yugoslav president by his first name, as if he were a relative or friend. When questioned by RFE/RL's correspondent, mourners were quick to express their disdain for those who helped unseat their beloved former leader.

One woman summed up the mood by saying, "We are humiliated. Serbia is crying for its son, Slobodan. They -- [Serbian President Boris] Tadic, the leadership -- they betrayed him. They killed him together with America."

Her words were echoed by another Milosevic loyalist.

"I came this morning from Kosovo to pay my last respects to Slobodan, and I will also go to the funeral," one man said. "There is a great difference. I do not know who Djindjic is [Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was assassinated in 2003 -- ed.] but I know who Slobodan Milosevic was. All the others are midgets compared to Slobodan Milosevic and what he represented."

Burial In Family Plot

Milosevic’s coffin returned to Belgrade yesterday in the cargo hold of a scheduled flight from Amsterdam. He received a low-key welcome from a few supporters, who draped a Serbian flag over his casket, before carrying it to a waiting hearse.

Some Milosevic loyalists gathered outside the Belgrade morgue where his body was stored overnight, and chanted his name in support: "Slobo! Slobo! Slobo!"

Milosevic’s coffin will be on public view for two days. On March 18, his supporters hope to move it to downtown Belgrade for a final farewell rally. They will then take the casket to Milosevic’s hometown of Pozarevac, an hour’s drive outside of Belgrade, where he will be buried in a family plot.

(RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service contributed to this report)

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