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Hundreds View Milosevic's Coffin In Belgrade

A supporter of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic touches his portrait. (epa) PRAGUE, March 16, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Several hundred Milosevic supporters, mostly elderly, stood for hours in the snow through the day waiting to pay their final respects to the former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whose closed coffin was placed on public view today.

In an ironic twist of history, Milosevic -- who undid Josip Tito's legacy of a united Yugoslavia -- is lying in the building once used to display foreign gifts acquired by the late Communist leader, in a museum in the capital, Belgrade.

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 Serb authorities refused their requests for more prominent venues, including the federal parliament building.

The crowd was small but emotional. Many referred to the ex-Yugoslav president by his first name, as if he were a relative or friend. Mourners were quick to express their disdain for those who helped unseat their beloved former leader.

"We are humiliated," said one woman. "Serbia is crying for its son, Slobodan. They -- [Serbian President Boris] Tadic, the leadership -- they betrayed him. They killed him together with America."

Another loyalist said he had made the lengthy journey from Kosovo to pay his respects, "and I will also go to the funeral," he added. "All the other [Serbian leaders] are midgets compared to Slobodan Milosevic and what he represented."

Milosevic will be buried on March 18 in his hometown of Pozarevac, an hour's drive from Belgrade.

Milosevic's coffin returned to Belgrade on March 16, 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, to chant their support.

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 before his remains are taken to Pozarevac to be buried in a family plot.

Milosevic On Trial

Milosevic On Trial

For an archive of RFE/RL's coverage of the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, click here.

Of related interest:

RFE/RL Special: The Collapse Of Tito's Yugoslavia

RFE/RL Special: Yugoslavia's Democratic Revolution

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