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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 March 2006, 22:34 GMT
Milosevic divides Belgrade in death
By Nick Hawton
BBC News, Belgrade

Milosevic supporters outside the federal parliament building
Outside the parliament building, supporters grieved a lost leader
It was a tale of two cities.

The city that sees Slobodan Milosevic as a Serb hero, who did everything to defend his people and who was finally and, brutally, killed by his opponents.

And the city that sees the former president as the epitome of evil best forgotten and consigned to the history books.

Under the leaden skies, Mr Milosevic's supporters gathered in their thousands outside the federal parliament building.

Mostly in their 40s and 50s, they carried portraits of their hero and waved banners condemning the West and The Hague tribunal.

One banner read: "Nato kills by bombing. Its tribunal kills by denying medical care."

He was a great man - today, I feel sad, very sad
Kosta Bulatovic
Serb refugee from Kosovo
The controversy over Mr Milosevic's death in The Hague is unlikely to go away any time soon.

On the stage lay the coffin of Mr Milosevic, draped in the Serbian flag. A large video screen relayed the images to the huge crowd. Some people climbed trees for a better view.

"As long as Serbia and Serbs are alive, Slobodan Milosevic will not die," said one speaker from the stage.

The crowd chanted: "We'll never let Kosovo go. We'll never let Kosovo go."

"He was killed by The Hague, by Great Britain and the United States. He was a great man. Today, I feel sad, very sad," said Kosta Bulatovic, 69, a Serb refugee from Kosovo.

'Homecoming'

And all this outside the very building - the federal parliament - which was stormed by protesters in October 2000, finally bringing to an end the rule of "Slobo". A homecoming of sorts, I guess.

Anti-Milosevic protesters in Belgrade
Milosevic was a horrible man. He left this country poor and isolated. We don't want to go back to those days
Zelko
Anti-Milosevic protester
But this was only half the story. Across town, in Republic Square, a rival demonstration was taking place by of a couple of thousand anti-Milosevic protesters.

They were younger, upbeat and looking to the future. They were blowing whistles and holding balloons.

There could not have been a greater contrast with their rivals up the road.

"I want a happier future, a more positive future. It's time for this country to move forward. But Europe is going to have to help us," said Dragana, 39.

"Milosevic was a horrible man. He left this country poor and isolated. We don't want to go back to those days," said Zelko, 25.

The crowd, carrying their balloons, eventually wandered off towards the main pedestrian area, perhaps feeling, or hoping, a line had finally been drawn under the past.

But perhaps, on reflection, it was a tale of three cities.

Because in Belgrade most people were not at either demonstration. They were shopping or watching sport on TV or drinking coffee. Most people do not want to think about the former president. They want to forget him and get on with their lives.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the grave where Milosevic is buried



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