Anniversary of Milosevic's Death Marked

The Associated Press
Saturday, March 10, 2007; 7:36 AM

BELGRADE, Serbia -- Admirers of late president Slobodan Milosevic marked the first anniversary of his death with wreaths and speeches on Saturday, even as Serbia continues to grapple with consequences of his ruinous rule.

Officials of the formerly Milosevic-led Socialist Party gathered at his grave in the eastern town of Pozarevac, praising the man who led Serbia through several wars and ended up facing the U.N. war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

"Milosevic was an honorable man who worked for the benefit of Serbia and its people," said supporter Bogoljub Bjelica.

Milosevic's lifeless body was found the morning of March 11 in his jail cell and the exact time of death was never determined.

He died just weeks before an expected end of his trial for alleged war crimes, including genocide, during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. He had been extradited to the international tribunal by pro-democracy parties that ousted him in 2000.

"Milosevic's policies led Serbia to a horrible situation. We're still dealing with the devastating effects of his legacy," said Jelena Markovic, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of the current President Boris Tadic.

As Milosevic's unrepentant supporters glorified the ex-president, Tadic was busy dealing with one of the effects of his rule _ attending U.N.-mediated talks in Vienna, Austria, with the representatives of ethnic Albanian separatists from Kosovo, the southern province whose secession Milosevic tried to prevent with brutal force.

Milosevic's campaign in Kosovo took Serbia to war with NATO in 1999, when the alliance bombed the country for 78 days and turned the province into an international protectorate.

In the ongoing talks on Kosovo's future, the ethnic Albanians insist on full independence while Serbian officials offer only broad autonomy for the province.

Milosevic's 1990s war efforts in Bosnia and Croatia turned Serbia into an international pariah, under sanctions, impoverished and isolated.

"Some consequences of Milosevic's regime have been rectified ... but the most difficult issues we still face is Kosovo and The Hague court," Markovic said, referring to the U.N. tribunal's demand for the extradition of Gen. Ratko Mladic, the wartime Bosnian Serb commander who was supported by Milosevic.

Serbia's possible membership in the European Union and NATO remains blocked until Mladic is handed over. The government in Belgrade claims it cannot located the elusive ex-commander.

© 2007 The Associated Press