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The BBC's Paul Wood
"Ill health may be used as part of Mr Milosevic's defence"
 real 56k

Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Milosevic given clean bill of health
Supporters of Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic's supporters say his illness is caused by prison
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is due to return to jail after being admitted to hospital on Wednesday night complaining of chest pains.

After tests were carried out on Mr Milosevic, his health was said to be "absolutely satisfactory".

"According to the information I have, he will be returned to prison after another test scheduled for tomorrow [Friday] morning," Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic was quoted as saying.

Mr Milosevic was reported as having "acute heart problems" when he was rushed to a military hospital.

The independent Beta news agency, quoting what it described as a well-informed source, said Mr Milosevic's condition had deteriorated during the evening hours on Wednesday and that he had been in "a state prior to a heart attack".

The former president, who has slightly raised blood pressure, has been on suicide watch since his arrest, but officials stressed that this was not a suicide attempt.

Avoiding justice?

A senior official in the Serbian Government told the BBC correspondent in Belgrade, Paul Wood, that Mr Milosevic's medical condition was not seen to be serious.

"We'll see a lot more of this sort of thing," he said, implying that Mr Milosevic might be considering using supposed health problems to avoid facing justice.

But Miroslav Vasic, a lawyer involved in the hearings, said the case was continuing normally.

"The defendant's presence is not necessary during the investigation, so it continues regardless of his health condition," he said.

"Insufferable conditions"

Earlier, before the news of his transfer to hospital, the main board of the Socialist Party demanded his release, claiming that his health was being jeopardised in prison.

They said he was being exposed to "insufferable conditions" and demanded that he be allowed to defend himself as a free man.

Belgrade prosecutors have charged Mr Milosevic for corruption and abuse of power. He is being investigated for other charges including political assassination, kidnap and electoral fraud.

He is also wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague for atrocities committed in Kosovo by Yugoslav troops under his command.

But Belgrade's new reformist rulers have insisted that their priority is to try him at home.

Mr Milosevic has denied all accusations against him.

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