Milosevic is buried in his hometown after farewells draw tens of thousands

Slobodan Milosevic was laid to rest Saturday beneath a tree in the backyard of the family estate in his hometown an anticlimactic end to one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of the turbulent Balkans.

The late Serbian leader's burial, a week after his death while on U.N. trial for genocide and crimes against humanity, followed a tense farewell ceremony in Belgrade that drew at least 80,000 nationalist supporters, and another in his birthplace attended by up to 20,000 admirers.

As a cold drizzle fell, his flag-draped coffin was lowered into a double grave with a place for his widow, Mirjana Markovic, who reportedly wants to join him when she dies.

The grave, marked with a simple marble slab inscribed with both of their names in Cyrillic letters and the dates 1941-2006, was dug beneath a favorite linden tree where the couple first kissed as high school sweethearts.

No immediate members of Milosevic's family attended. But in a letter read out at graveside, Markovic, who lives in self-imposed exile in Moscow because she faces Serbian charges of abuse of power during her husband's 13-year reign, said: "You have come back to our home to rest in the place you loved the most."

"You lost your life while fighting for noble causes. You were killed by villains. But I know you will live forever for all who wish to live like human beings," her letter said.

A letter from the couple's son, Marko Milosevic, expressed hope that the late president's death would "sober up the humiliated Serb people."

"To die for one's country means to live forever," his letter said.

No priest officiated at the interment because Milosevic was an avowed atheist.

Among the supporters in Pozarevac were several indicted war crimes suspects on temporarily leave from the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. One, retired Gen. Dragoljub Ojdanic, wore his military uniform.

After the burial, residents of the gritty industrial town 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital waited in a long line to view the grave, which was framed by a crimson carpet and brass stands holding red velvet ropes, reports AP.

O.Ch.

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