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Sunday, 8 October, 2000, 00:28 GMT 01:28 UK
Analysis: Milosevic's trials
Poster saying 'Slobo, Save Serbia, Kill yourself'
Milosevic's parents committed suicide
By Nick Thorpe in Yugoslavia

"Slobo, Save Serbia, Kill yourself" was perhaps one of the cruellest slogans used by any political movement in recent history.

Painted on banners at opposition rallies over the past weeks, or chanted by huge crowds, it referred to the suicide of his parents - his father when Slobodan was a child, his mother when he was 18.


I personally - precisely because of this great relief, because of the end of this great responsibility that I have been carrying for a whole decade - intend to take a short break

Milosevic statement October 6

A lawyer who has defended Bosnian Serb war crimes suspects at the Hague Tribunal told me recently that the tribunal would never get Slobodan Milosevic alive. Suggesting that he would rather follow in his parents' sad footsteps.

Another much discussed scenario was the Romanian one.

Playing on the parallels between Mr Milosevic and his wife Mirjana, and the late Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, some analysts have suggested for years that they would fall from power in a bloody revolution, and be executed in the heat of battle.

A third, and generally regarded as the most likely outcome, was that the ruling couple would simply flee.

Milosevic on Yugoslav TV
Mr Milosevic has talked about a return to politics
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and China have all been mentioned as possible destinations in recent days - wherever the chance of extradition to the Hague was least likely.

Return to politics

Now that revolution has come, the big surprise is that not only is Slobodan Milosevic still in Serbia, but that he has blithely told the people that, after a short holiday, he intends to return to politics, as leader of the Socialist Party - the new opposition.

He is after all only 59 - a baby-faced man, still relatively young in the political profession.

He has his house in Dedinje, other homes around the country, and allegedly even a well-fortified villa-cum-bunker at Bjelanica in the east of the country, near the Romanian and Bulgarian borders.


I'm truly worried that he will continue to make trouble for us

Reform Party leader Mile Isakov

Mile Isakov, leader of the Reform Party of Vojvodina, and a respected ally of new president Vojislav Kostunica, does not believe Mr Milosevic's promises of good behaviour.

"He lied to us too many times, and he's lying about how he feels right now," said Isakov. "I'm truly worried that he will continue to make trouble for us."

There are a number of ways he could do that. First his "praetorian guard" - made up of an estimated 5,000 specially trained police and soldiers.

They were noticeably absent from the street protests, where most interventions of the security forces were remarkably half-hearted.

One commentator, former Serbian Information Minister Alexander Tijanic, has suggested that these forces might be used in some way to gain 'revenge' for the humiliation that he has suffered.

Extradition unlikely

In Croatia, since the death of Franjo Tudjman nearly a year ago, the new government has shown a greater willingness to extradite Bosnian Croats to The Hague Tribunal.

But it appears to have negotiated with the tribunal to prosecute Croats suspected of crimes in Croatia at home.

Vojislav Kostunica
Mr Kostunica is unlikely to extradite Slobodan Milosevic
In Yugoslavia, President Kostunica is unlikely to order Mr Milosevic's extradition.

He has frequently described the tribunal as an anti-Serbian institution, and a subservient tool of US foreign policy.

Legal proceedings against Mr Milosevic and his wife, and top figures in their respective parties, the Socialists and the Yugoslav Left, now seem inevitable.

"I believe if he stays here, he will finish in the prison," said Mile Isakov.

But not for any responsibility for the deaths of Bosnian Muslims or Kosovo Albanians - the charges which the Hague would like to press.

Mundane charges

In Serbia, he seems likely to face more mundane charges - from stealing votes at last months' elections, to kidnapping, and murder.

Many suspect him of involvement in the disappearance of his former political mentor Ivan Stambolic, six weeks ago.

Such speculation suggests that Slobodan Milosevic may yet flee - to escape the wrath of his countrymen, if not of the international community.

But where might he go? And with how much energy will he be pursued, if that is the course he takes?

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07 Oct 00 | Media reports
Milosevic: I'll be back
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