March 17, 2006

Milosevic was not poisoned

By Alexandra Hudson

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The UN war crimes tribunal said on
Friday that preliminary results of blood tests showed no
indication Slobodan Milosevic's death by heart attack was
caused by poisoning.

Milosevic, who died in jail last Saturday just months
before a verdict in his war crimes trial, had suffered from
high blood pressure and a heart condition.

"So far no indications of poisoning have been found," Judge
Fausto Pocar, president of the UN war crimes tribunal, told a
news conference. "I would like to stress that these are
provisional results."

Tribunal registrar Hans Holthuis confirmed that traces of
rifampicin -- a leprosy and tuberculosis drug that would have
neutralized Milosevic's medicines for his existing health
conditions -- was found in an earlier January 12 blood test.

But Pocar said no traces of the drug rifampicin were found
at the time of Milosevic's death. There was evidence of his
prescribed medication, but not in toxic concentrations.

"So far no traces of rifampicin were found," Pocar said,
adding it was unlikely that rifampicin had been ingested or
administered in the last few days before Milosevic's death.

In a preliminary autopsy report, pathologists said
Milosevic died of a myocardial infarction, or heart attack,
that could be explained by two heart conditions he suffered

The court had denied an earlier request in December by
Milosevic to travel to Russia for heart treatment, and in a
letter addressed to Moscow the day before he died, Milosevic
said he suspected he was being poisoned with drugs for leprosy
and tuberculosis.

"The tribunal provided the best possible treatment to Mr.
Milosevic," registrar Holthuis said.

Groningen University toxicologist Donald Uges -- one of the
experts who conducted the January blood tests -- told Reuters
earlier this week he thought Milosevic had knowingly taken
harmful medicines to improve his case for going for medical
treatment to Russia, where his wife, son and brother live.

Milosevic's body, which was flown to Belgrade earlier this
week, is was put on view in Belgrade on Thursday ahead of a
private weekend burial under a lime tree in the grounds of
Milosevic's provincial home in Pozarevac -- a far cry from the
state funeral sought by his dwindling band of loyalists.

The man branded the "Butcher of the Balkans" had been on
trial for four years charged with 66 counts of genocide, crimes
against humanity and war crimes involving conflicts in Bosnia,
Croatia and Kosovo that tore Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s.

(Additional reporting by Niclas Mika in Amsterdam)