March 19, 2006

Milosevic son denounces funeral as political rally

By Andrew Gray

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Slobodan Milosevic's son on Sunday
denounced the former Serbian president's funeral, organized by
his Socialist Party, as a "political rally."

Socialist officials and other prominent supporters made a
succession of fiery speeches at a gathering of tens of
thousands of people in Belgrade on Saturday before Milosevic's
coffin was taken to the provincial town of Pozarevac for

Some Serbian media saw the funeral as the final act of an
era marked by the Balkan wars of the 1990s in which 150,000
people were killed and millions forced from their homes.

Others saw it as a sign that Milosevic, reviled in the West
and neighboring states as the leader most responsible for those
wars, still had a substantial following even after his death.

None of Milosevic's close relatives attended the gathering,
or his burial in the yard of the family's home in Pozarevac.

His son Marko and wife Mira, his lifelong partner in power,
stayed in self-imposed exile in Russia. They feared arrest by
the pro-Western authorities who now run Serbia or attacks by
Serbs disgusted at their reign as the country's first family.

"This is terrible! I don't know what to say. I'm sitting
here with my mother in front of the TV and I can't believe it,"
Marko told a reporter from Belgrade daily Press as he watched
the funeral live on television.

"My mother is shaking. I'll be happy if she survives this.
For God's sake, this is not a funeral, this is a political


Milosevic died of heart failure in his cell at the U.N. war
crimes tribunal just over a week ago. He was indicted on 66
counts including charges of genocide and crimes against

Belgrade newspaper Vecernje Novosti headlined its
front-page story on his burial "Funeral of an Epoch."

Another tabloid, Kurir, also described the funeral as "The
End of an Era" but added that the mourners had "showed that
their leader, even dead, will continue shaping the political
map of Serbia for a long time."

In Sarajevo, where the wartime siege by Serb forces killed
more than 10,000, newspapers viewed the event with revulsion.

"Cetniks (Serb nationalists) and neo-communists honored
criminal," ran the headline in Dnevni Avaz, Bosnia's
best-selling newspaper, read mainly by Bosnian Muslims.

"Balkan Butcher Buried," it added.

Several Serbian papers were more interested in Milosevic's
lonely end, using the headline "A Funeral Without Family."

Widely regarded in Serbia as a playboy who spent his time
crashing racing cars or running cigarette smuggling rings while
ordinary Serbs suffered war and economic decline, Marko fled
the country after his father was ousted in October 2000.

He said he had no plans to visit his father's grave, which
lies under a lime tree where he first courted Mira.

A small number of people visited the yard on Sunday,
kissing the wooden grave marker and lighting candles.

Milosevic left Serbia divided between a sizeable minority
who see him as a hero who defended Serb interests and a
majority who broadly support the current government's
pro-Western course.

His death has divided even his own family. His daughter
Marija opposed the burial in Pozarevac, arguing his grave
should be in his ancestral village in the republic of

"I'll insist on exhumation," she told Press. "I think the
authorities will have to respect that."

(Additional reporting by Ljilja Cvekic in Belgrade and
Nedim Dervisbegovic in Sarajevo)