Poisoning caused Milosevic's death?
An autopsy on the body of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic was scheduled to start in the Netherlands on Sunday morning, a spokeswoman for the UN war crimes tribunal where he had been detained said early this week.
The autopsy was supposed to be attended by Serbian medical experts including the head doctor of Serbia's national council of cooperation with the tribunal, the spokeswoman said.
Milosevic was found dead earlier Saturday in the detention centre of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) where he was on trial for war crimes and genocide.
His body was transferred late Saturday to the NFI Dutch medical-legal institute in The Hague.
"I was informed that the tribunal has agreed to allow our pathologists to be present at the autopsy," Serbia-Montenegro Human Rights Minister Rasim Ljajic told AFP.
Ljajic said he would travel to The Hague on Sunday along with two pathologists from Belgrade's military hospital.
"I will have talks there about other details related to the incident and to take over the body," said Ljajic, who is in charge of the Balkan union's cooperation with the ICTY.
Milosevic's family and political allies in Belgrade have raised suspicions about his death and said the ICTY should be held responsible.
Zdenko Tomanovic, a legal adviser of Milosevic, said that Milosevic claimed to have been the target of an attempted poisoning.
The ICTY said a toxicological examination of the body would also be carried out.
An ICTY spokeswoman said there was "no sign that he committed suicide," but added: "We cannot say that he died of natural causes. We are waiting for the report."
Milosevic, 64, suffered from cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure.
Former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, found dead in his prison bed on Saturday, was a bully firebrand who embodied post-Cold War nationalism gone crazy.
The "Butcher of the Balkans" defied international sanctions and NATO bombs over nearly a decade of strife in the former Yugoslavia and was unmoved by accusations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He stoked conflicts that left more than 200,000 people dead, up to three million homeless and the Serbian economy in ruins.
But he made no apologies for his actions in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, where his drive for a Greater Serbia "cleansed" of Croats and Muslims sparked a rash of grisly massacres and finally a showdown with the West.
"I'm proud for everything I did in defending my country and my people," he told US television network Fox News in a phone interview in 2001 from his jail outside The Hague, where he was awaiting trial.
"All my decisions are legitimate and legal, based on the constitution of Yugoslavia and based on the rights to self- defence."
Milosevic was the first former head of state to appear before an international criminal court and faced life in jail if convicted. But he portrayed himself as a besieged statesman who struggled to keep the crumbling Yugoslav federation intact against separatists and "terrorists".
The wily Serb matched bluff and cockiness with what one commentator called "a Machiavellian flare for shedding identities which are of no more use to him".
He started as a faceless Communist minion, later fashioned himself into a successful businessman and technocrat, and bullied his way into political prominence as a ruthless champion of the Serbian cause.
Western officials were often caught flatfooted by Milosevic, who was widely seen both as the source of Balkan tensions but also the key to regional peace in 1995. He went from political pariah to partner and back again.
Richard Holbrooke, who brokered the 1995 Dayton peace accords to end the Bosnian war, had no love for Milosevic but remembered him as a hard- drinking, cigar-chomping negotiator who could be "smart, charming and evasive".
But the pendulum swung definitively after Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999. Many then adopted US Senator Joseph Biden's view that he was "one of the most dangerous and maniacal European leaders since Hitler".
"Today God gave his verdict on justice," Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said after hearing of his death.
"The death of 'the Butcher of the Balkans,' who caused the greatest drama and tragedy of modern history to Bosnians, Albanians and Croats, is a relief for the families of the hundreds of thousands of victims of his cruelty," he said.
Milosevic was born on August 20, 1941, in the eastern Serbian town of Pozarevac, the son of an Orthodox priest and ardently communist schoolteacher. Both parents ended up committing suicide 10 years apart.
He graduated from Belgrade University with a law degree and climbed through the ruling ranks of Tito's Yugoslavia, developing a reputation as a communist "apparatchik's apparatchik".
Milosevic headed both the state-run gas company and the state-run bank. But he was still a relatively little-known official until April 24, 1987, when he found the voice that would later rock the Balkans.
On that day he was summoned to help calm a crowd of Kosovar Serbs protesting mistreatment by the province's Albanian majority. As riot police beat back the throng, Milosevic was anything but calming.
"No one has the right to beat you. No one will ever beat you again," he raged from a nearby balcony. The Serb battle cry was born and ethnic hatreds that had been welling up since Tito's death in 1980 were unleashed.
Milosevic took over as president of the Serbian republic in 1989, quickly revoking Kosovo's autonomous status and ratcheting up the Serbs' jingoistic spirit as Yugoslavia broke apart in 1991.
As president of Serbia and later head of the rump Yugoslav republic that joined it with Montenegro, Milosevic was a cunning leader who used the state media to the hilt to inflame Serb passions and stifle dissent.
He ruled with an iron fist, aided by his wife Mira, his childhood sweetheart whose intellect and fierce drive earned her the sobriquet "Lady Macbeth of the Balkans".
But after the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, the ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo and the 11 weeks of NATO airstrikes it prompted were the last straw for a beleaguered Yugoslav people.
Increasingly targeted by demonstrations and strikes, Milosevic ran for a new term as Yugoslav president but the machinery no longer worked for him. He conceded defeat to Vojislav Kostunica and resigned on October 7, 2000.
Six months later he was arrested at his home in Belgrade on suspicion of abuse of power and misappropriation of state funds, surrendering only after holding a gun to his head and threatening to kill himself.
His transfer to the United Nations war crimes court in The Hague on June 28, 2001 -- ironically a major day in the Serb calendar as the anniversary of their defeat by the Turks in 1389 -- hardly produced a ripple in Belgrade.
His trial, which began on February 12, 2002, was frequently interrupted because of illness sparked by high blood pressure and heart problems.
It was due to resume on March 14 after a two-week break, caused this time by problems in scheduling witnesses.
Insisting on defending himself, Milosevic concentrated almost totally on events in Kosovo, hardly going into the charges related to the war in Croatia and the genocide charges against him over the war in Bosnia.
According to the last calculations, done on February 15, Milosevic had already used up 85.11 percent of the 360 hours allotted to him for his defence, meaning he only had about a dozen court days left to complete his defence case.
A radio report said last week said he would be bringing out a book next month based on his opening statement at his trial and entitled "The Defence Speaks-for History and the Future".