- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 19, 2006

POZAREVAC, Serbia and Montenegro — Slobodan Milosevic was buried yesterday in the Serbian soil for which he spilled so much blood, in a funeral, in which his country mourned and celebrated with equal passion.

As the former dictator was laid to rest in his hometown of Pozarevac, a drab and unremarkable industrial town south of Belgrade, an estimated 80,000 loyal followers turned out to pay their respects.

But in a mark of the bitter divisions he created in his country, his opponents held a counter demonstration in Belgrade’s Republic Square, releasing balloons to mark what they hoped would be the end of an era.

Millions more vented their contempt for the man who led his country into four wars by staying away altogether.

“I will quite happily come and dump my rubbish on his grave some time, but why should I spoil another Saturday?” asked Brane Popovic, 59, a Belgrade jeweler.

Many of the mourners were bused in from the heartlands of rural Serbia, where the fiery nationalism of Mr. Milosevic remains an orthodoxy.

Although the Serbian government had refused Mr. Milosevic an official state funeral, it ended up as one in all but name.

Outside the federal parliament in Belgrade — ironically the same spot where pro-democracy demonstrations finally toppled Mr. Milosevic in October 2000 — vast crowds chanted “Slobo, Slobo,” in front of a red-carpeted outdoor stage that was set up for his coffin.

“I came to say goodbye to the greatest son of Serbia,” said Bosko Nikolic, 42.

Conspicuous by their absence were Mr. Milosevic’s son Marko, 30, and widow Mirjana, who failed to fly in from Moscow out of fear she would be arrested for purported abuse of power during her husband’s regime.

The crowds were a fraction of the masses who cheered the dictator a decade ago, and far below the organizers’ original predictions of up to 2 million.

Passing motorists made obscene gestures at the mourners from the safety of their vehicles.

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