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Death of Milosevic Welcomed and Mourned in Balkans


There were mixed reactions in regions that were ravaged by the Balkan wars of the 1990's to the death of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Some say his death robs victims of the justice they had hoped for from his war crimes trial, while Milosevic supporters mourn his death.

Although Slobodan Milosevic was ousted in a popular revolt in 2000, there were some scenes of grief in his homeland, Serbia. Milosevic supporters spoke of a "great loss." State-run television aired classical music between newscasts.

Serbian Justice Minister Zoran Stojkovic said he was "shaken as a person," and claimed the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague did not provide proper medical care to the former leader, who suffered from high blood pressure and heart troubles.

Yet, they received no sympathy from Milosevic's opponents. Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, recalled his days in opposition. "Slobodan Milosevic ordered many assassinations of my followers for years, assassinations of members of my family and people of my party. And Slobodan Milosevic organized a few assassination attempts against my own life, what can I say," he said. "That's a pity that he did not face justice in Belgrade..."

In the former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, and in the province of Kosovo, officials and citizens expressed regret that Milosevic did not live to face justice.

In Kosovo, Veton Surroi, an ethnic Albanian leader, who had testified against Milosevic, said he regretted Milosevic did not live 100 years, so he could have spent a longer time in prison.

But Bosnian Foreign Minister Mladen Ivanic said he hopes Milosevic's death will encourage the people of the Balkans to bury their recent bloodstained past, and

look toward a future of reconciliation. And, he stressed it was crucial for the Balkans to continue to cooperate with the U.N. court, in particular, for Serbia and the Bosnian-Serb Republic to turn over Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic. "As the old fugitives are not in The Hague, the situation will not be normal. So, one of the most important priorities of all the countries, especially Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-and-Montenegro is to fully cooperate with [the UN Tribunal at] The Hague. We have two reasons for that: One, to fulfill our international bligations, and another one, which is even more important, we have to do it, because this is some sort of condition to build the trust among us," he said.

Minister Ivanic was in Austria for a meeting of European foreign ministers. The EU has made surrender of war crimes suspects a condition of membership negotiations with Serbia-and-Montenegro.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plasnik, whose country currently chairs the European Union, said the region must look to the future. "The need to come to terms with the legacy of the past, with the legacy of which Slobodan Milosevic has been a part ... will be one of the big challenges ahead for the region, in order to reach one of the ultimate goals we are working on, which is lasting peace and reconciliation," she said.

An estimated quarter-of-a-million people died in the bloody break up of Yugoslavia, and millions were displaced. Milosevic has been blamed for inciting much of the hatred that led to Europe's worst conflict since World War II.

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