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Serbo Journal

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Tears and roses for Milosevic

Belgrade - Many cried, some kissed his photo, and a few walked behind his coffin.

As a light snow fell in Belgrade, hundreds of people bade an emotional farewell to former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic on Wednesday.

"Slobo!" some chanted. "Slobo srbine. Slobo the Serb."

Many wore badges and T-shirts featuring Milosevic's photo and laced with a black band.

One woman brandished a placard saying: "Heroes do not die, they go into history."

The emotionally charged moment came as Milosevic's body was returned to the Serbian capital on a flight from Amsterdam, after his death of a heart attack on Saturday while on trial for war crimes at the United Nations tribunal in The Hague.

The scheduled JAT flight landed at 13:45. A delegation of officials from Milosevic's Socialist Party (SPS) were gathered on the tarmac, in front of them a grey-haired woman carrying a bouquet of red roses.

Draped with Serbian flag

After the plane taxied to a halt, a luggage conveyor was brought up to the back and passenger suitcases were offloaded.

Then, wrapped in a protective cover, the coffin was lowered.

One of the officials draped a Serbian flag on the casket, another placed the red roses on top. One or two kissed the coffin, while another shed tears.

It was carried in to a van and driven slowly out of the airport, stopping in front of the ranks of journalists, for more party officials to pay their tributes.

By the time it reached the airport exit gates, the size of the crowd had swollen to several hundred, and the van had to inch a path through.

For a short while, the crowd walked behind. Many were crying or wailing and some carried red roses, the symbol of his party.

People tried to touch the van, and threw roses and other flowers as police tried to keep order.

Along the main road from the airport to Saint Sava Hospital, where the body will be stored, smaller groups waited on overhead bridges to watch the cortege drive beneath.

Coffin to go on display

More waited at the front of the hospital's mortuary with other SPS officials.

One man shouted: "They killed a hero and turned him into a saint."

Milosevic is to be buried on Saturday in his home town of Pozarevac, about 70km east of Belgrade.

His party has said it will put his coffin on display until then, so that people can pay their last respects.

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