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The BBC's Paul Anderson
"The chance to forget 13 years of brutality"
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Sunday, 1 April, 2001, 21:50 GMT 22:50 UK
Belgrade's sigh of relief
Belgrade street
Belgradians are looking ahead to life without Milosevic
By Roksanda Nincic in Belgrade

Belgrade has finally been able to get some rest after waiting for two nights to see if Slobodan Milosevic would end up behind bars.

"It really is over for him - and more importantly, for us," says Darko, 37, an engineer who spent seven consecutive hours in front of the TV with a group of friends, waiting to see the moment of the former Yugoslav president's arrest.

I hope... the whole country will become a normal country again

Snezana, a banker
"There were a couple of moments when I thought there would be more blood because of him. But at last we have proven to ourselves - and the world - we were capable of bringing him to justice in a legal procedure".

There is no euphoria in the city that has had its fill of political drama in the last decade. The feeling is mainly one of relief.

Snezana, a banker lives a few streets away from Milosevic's former residence.

Belgrade newsstand
Most newspapers carried special editions
"Yesterday, I could not even get to the supermarket to buy bread without the police asking for my ID and demanding where I was going," she says.

"I hope this neighbourhood will now be a normal part of the city again, that the whole country will become a normal country again."

Looking ahead

"When I heard last night Milosevic was threatening to kill himself and his whole family if the police tried to lay a hand on him, I thought - fine, if that is what he wants. I just wanted it to end," says Nela, 39, a secretary.

"However, when I woke up and heard he had surrendered peacefully, I was glad. I want to see him in court, answering for his crimes - all of his crimes."

Bojan, 21, a student spent the last 12 hours before the arrest walking from his parents apartment in central Belgrade to Dedinje, where Milosevic's home was, and back.

Why do they [the West] think our courts are not capable of judging him?

Milan, a waiter
"I had to see for myself what was going on. That man ruined our youth. I just hope we will all be able to get on with our lives now."

As soon as they were certain - absolutely certain - Milosevic was locked up in Belgrade's Central jail, Belgradians started looking further ahead.

"Will the West leave us alone now - at least for a day or two", asks Nevena, a lawyer watching her daughter play in a park near Milosevic's former residence.

"So we arrested him by March 31, like Washington insisted. Could they give us at least a bit of breathing space before they start insisting we send him to the Hague?" she adds.

Western reaction

Most citizens believe the government arrested Milosevic as soon as they had enough hard proof against him, regardless of international pressure.

Celebrating in Belgrade
Some celebrated but for most it was a feeling of relief
They believe Milosevic should be tried in Belgrade first and extradited to the Hague Tribunal at some later stage.

"I wish they could show us at least some trust", says Milan, a waiter.

"I've been listening to statements of various Western leaders since this morning. They seem to be saying - fine, so you arrested him, now hand him over to us. Why do they think our courts are not capable of judging him?"

Nina, an interpreter is not afraid of a backlash from Milosevic's supporters.

"He is broken, and they are broken," she says.

"What I am afraid of is this - if President Bush vetoes American support for financial aid to Serbia, no one here will ever believe the West is not hell bent against us. And what future will we have then?"

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See also:

01 Apr 01 | Europe
Sleepy Belgrade in two moods
01 Apr 01 | Media reports
Regional leaders welcome Milosevic arrest
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