NEWS

Milosevic ‘took wrong drugs’

THE HAGUE/MOSCOW (Combined reports) – Slobodan Milosevic gave himself a drug that neutralized his heart medicine, an expert who examined his blood alleged yesterday as the former Yugoslav president’s family pushed for a state funeral in his homeland. «I am sure he took the medicine himself because he wanted a one-way ticket to Moscow» for treatment, Dutch toxicologist Donald Uges told AFP, a day after an official autopsy concluded Milosevic died of a heart attack. «That is why he took rifampicin.» Rifampicin is a powerful antibiotic used to treat leprosy or tuberculosis which Uges said countered the effects of Milosevic’s heart medication. The University of Groningen toxicologist said he had examined Milosevic’s blood two weeks ago at the request of Dutch doctors who wanted to know why his blood pressure was not dropping despite medication. Meanwhile, Russia pressed the UN war crimes tribunal to let its doctors examine Milosevic’s postmortem results. Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying that Moscow was disappointed with the tribunal’s rejection of Milosevic’s request to undergo treatment at a Moscow clinic despite guarantees of his return. «In the situation where we were distrusted, we also have the right to distrust,» Lavrov told Russian reporters. «We have already requested the tribunal allow our doctors to take part in the postmortem… or at least examine its results.» «Russia was ready to offer medical treatment for Milosevic and give a 100 percent guarantee that he would return to The Hague after the treatment,» ITAR-Tass quoted Lavrov as saying. «We were concerned about this… moreover Milosevic died soon after that,» he added. The news agencies said a team of doctors, headed by Leo Bokeria, the director of Moscow’s elite Bakulev Cardiovascular Surgery Center who had examined Milosevic in the detention center during the trial, is to fly to The Hague today. Milosevic, 64, was found dead on Saturday in his prison cell while he was on trial at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the bloody 1990s Balkans conflicts. As the tribunal prepared to release his body, a legal adviser to Milosevic during his trial said his relatives wanted a state funeral in Belgrade. Zdenko Tomanovic also said Milosevic’s son Marko was seeking a visa so he could pick up his father’s remains, and would arrive from Moscow by today. Sunday’s autopsy pinpointed «myocardial infarction» – heart attack – as the immediate cause of death, although a court spokeswoman admitted it was too early to rule out poisoning, as claimed by his entourage and Milosevic in a letter revealed after his death. Tomanovic said a medical report given to Milosevic by court officials had revealed the presence in his blood of an antibiotic also described as one used to fight leprosy and tuberculosis. In the letter, written a day before his death, Milosevic pleaded with the Russian Foreign Ministry for protection, charging, «They would like to poison me.» Meanwhile, Milosevic’s family mounted pressure for a funeral with full state honors in Serbia. Tomanovic filed a request with Belgrade’s district court for the withdrawal of a warrant for the arrest of Milosevic’s widow Mirjana, known as Mira, pleading «new circumstances» after the death. Judges will rule on the request after getting the advice of prosecutors, a court official said. Markovic faces fraud charges. «The family wants a state funeral, but not for him to be buried in the Alley of Great Men,» he told reporters in The Hague, referring to the resting place of national luminaries in a central Belgrade cemetery. Serbian President Boris Tadic on Sunday ruled out a state funeral, saying such a ceremony would be «completely inappropriate» given Milosevic’s role in the Balkans wars that claimed at least 200,000 lives. However, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica’s government is under pressure from Milosevic’s Socialist Party, (SPS), whose votes they need, to give him a fitting send-off. «I told the ruling majority that they cannot expect the SPS entering Parliament if Slobodan Milosevic is not buried in a dignified way in Belgrade,» top SPS official Zoran Andjelkovic told AFP. Markovic told a Serbian newspaper she had yet to decide where her husband should be buried but preferred Pozarevac, their hometown near Belgrade. Their daughter Marija said she wanted the body returned home to Montenegro, where the family has roots and which is federated with Serbia. Under the words «Dad, I love you,» she placed a full-page death notice in a Montenegrin daily newspaper, accompanied by a large photograph of her father in his youth. The circumstances of Milosevic’s trial and death sparked fierce criticism. Critics noted he was the fourth inmate to die at the tribunal’s detention center, but the strongest accusations were reserved for the judicial process, which was four years old by the time he died. (AFP, Reuters)