- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

THE HAGUE — A heart attack killed Slobodan Milosevic in his jail cell, the U.N. war-crimes tribunal said, citing preliminary findings from Dutch pathologists who conducted a nearly eight-hour autopsy yesterday on the former Yugoslav leader.

The tribunal said pathologists had determined that Mr. Milosevic’s “cause of death was a ‘myocardial infarction.’”

Found dead in his cell Saturday morning, the 64-year-old Mr. Milosevic had suffered from heart ailments and high blood pressure, and his bad health caused numerous breaks in his four-year, $200 million trial before the tribunal.

Some wondered if suicide might have been an out for the man accused of causing wars that killed 250,000 people during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. And a legal advisersaid Mr. Milosevic feared he was being poisoned.

Earlier, the chief U.N. prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, had said claims that Mr. Milosevic committed suicide or was poisoned were “just rumors.”

“You have the choice between normal, natural death and suicide,” she told reporters at the tribunal, where Mr. Milosevic had been standing trial for more than four years on 66 counts of war crimes and genocide in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo during Yugoslavia’s violent breakup in the 1990s.

Mr. Milosevic’s body was to be delivered to his family by today, according to the tribunal and an official in Serbia-Montenegro. But there was disagreement among relatives about whether he should be buried in his homeland of Serbia or in Russia, where his wife and son live in exile.

In Serbia, Mr. Milosevic’s loyalists burned candles in memory of their fallen hero at branches of his Socialist Party. Elderly women sobbed and kissed his photographs adorned with black cloth, while nationalists signed condolence books declaring him a defender of “Serb honor.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would have none of that, calling Mr. Milosevic “one of the most malign forces in Europe in quite a long time.”

“Some feel that they wish there had been the opportunity to bring him to justice and to have the final verdict of history be in the courts, but I think the final verdict of history about Milosevic is pretty clear,” Miss Rice said after visiting Chile.

A pathologist sent by Serbia observed the autopsy at the Netherlands Forensic Institute, an agency of the Dutch Justice Ministry.

Tribunal spokeswoman Alexandra Milenov said the autopsy revealed that Mr. Milosevic had been suffering from two heart conditions. Asked if poisoning could have caused the heart attack, the spokeswoman said it was too early to draw conclusions.

She said the inquiry into Mr. Milosevic’s death was continuing, with a final report expected to be released within days.

Outside the tribunal’s offices, Mr. Milosevic’s legal adviser showed reporters a six-page letter that he said the former leader wrote the day before his death claiming traces of a powerful drug used to treat leprosy or tuberculosis had been found in his bloodstream.

Zdenko Tomanovic said Mr. Milosevic was seriously concerned. “They would like to poison me,” he quoted Mr. Milosevic as telling him.

A Dutch state broadcaster, NOS, said later that an adviser to the tribunal confirmed such a drug was found in a blood sample taken in recent months from Mr. Milosevic. The report said the adviser, who was not identified, said the drug could have had a “neutralizing effect” on Mr. Milosevic’s other medications.

Doctors found traces of the drug when they were trying to determine why Mr. Milosevic’s medication for high blood pressure was not working, the NOS report said.

Mr. Milosevic had appealed unsuccessfully to the war-crimes tribunal last December to be allowed to go to a heart clinic in Moscow for treatment. He repeated the request as late as last month.

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