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Milosevic took wrong drugs, says expert

The Hague, March 13 (Reuters): Slobodan Milosevic took drugs that worsened his health before dying in prison, a Dutch expert said today, as the former Yugoslav President’s family tried to decide whether to bury him in Serbia or Russia.

Adding to controversy over Milosevic’s death just months before an expected verdict in his war crimes trial, Russia expressed its “distrust” of proceedings and pressed The Hague tribunal to allow its doctors to examine post mortem results.

Groningen University toxicologist Donald Uges said he thought Milosevic had knowingly taken harmful medicines to improve his case for going for medical treatment to Russia, where his wife, son and brother live.

Dutch prosecutors said today they had formally released his body, which Milosevic’s son Marko wants to collect later for burial. The Dutch foreign ministry said it had granted visas for Marko and Russian medical experts.

Marko said the family wanted the funeral in Belgrade, but might ask for a temporary burial in Moscow if the Serbian authorities failed to guarantee the safety of his mother Mira Markovic, who fled Serbia from corruption charges in 2003.

Milosevic, 64, who suffered from a heart condition and high blood pressure and was found dead in bed in his cell on Saturday, had faced a possible life sentence if convicted.

“I don’t think he took his medicines for suicide ' only for his trip to Moscow ... that is where his friends and family are. I think that was his last possibility to escape The Hague,” toxicologist Uges said. “I am so sure there is no murder.”

Uges said tests he conducted two weeks ago on Milosevic’s blood showed traces of rifampicin ' a drug used against leprosy and tuberculosis that would have neutralised other medicines.

A preliminary autopsy report yesterday showed Milosevic had died of a heart attack, but toxicology tests were still under way.

The autopsy was conducted by Dutch scientists and attended by Serbian pathologists. Serbia said the autopsy had been very professional and the whole procedure filmed.

But Russian news agencies quoted foreign minister Sergei Lavrov as saying Moscow did not trust the autopsy results and wanted its doctors to examine the results of the post mortem. Last month, the tribunal rejected a request by Milosevic to be allowed to travel to Moscow for specialist medical care.

His lawyer said Milosevic feared he was being poisoned with the wrong drugs in a bid to silence him, and wrote to Russia the day before he died asking for help.

Saying she was furious Milosevic’s victims had been denied justice, UN chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte suggested he might have killed himself to evade a verdict, noting that former Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic committed suicide at the jail last week.

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