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Thousands mourn at slain Serb PM’s funeral

Belgrade, March 15 (Reuters): Hundreds of thousands followed the funeral procession today of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, assassinated by a sniper believed to be acting on the orders of gangster bosses.

It was the biggest crowd Serbia had seen since a mass uprising led by Djindjic and other reformers toppled Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, after a decade of Balkan wars and international ostracism for the impoverished republic.

The mourners joined the slow procession of the slain leader’s body through chilly streets from Saint Sava cathedral to Belgrade’s New Cemetery, where it was laid to rest with military honours in the Alley of the Great Men.

Western leaders including European Commission president Romano Prodi and German foreign minister Joschka Fischer were among those who paid last respects, under tight security, to the man they credit with ending Milosevic’s authoritarian rule. A funeral ceremony was held earlier today in Saint Sava’s, with black-clad anti-terrorist troops on guard outside.

Djindjic’s widow and their two children, government ministers, black-robed religious leaders, army top brass and other dignitaries filed by his coffin, which lay in the huge church draped in the red, blue and white Serbian flag. Serbian Orthodox bishop Amfilohije said Djindjic had begun a renewal of Serbia and “reached out a hand of reconciliation and peace” to Europe and the world.“But he was killed by a brother’s blind hatred.”

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