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Milosevic autopsy points to heart attack

Prosecutor calls death 'great pity for justice'




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Slobodan Milosevic
Hague (Netherlands)
Kosovo (Serbia)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CNN) -- Preliminary autopsy results indicate that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic died of a heart attack, a spokeswoman for the U.N. war crimes tribunal said Sunday.

Two pathologists from Belgrade attended the procedure and gave the tribunal a summary, said spokeswoman Alexandra Milenov.

"According to the pathologists, the cause of death was a myocardial infarction," or heart attack, she said.

The pathologists also said two heart conditions the former leader suffered from "would explain the myocardial infarction," according to Milenov.

Still, she stressed, the cause of death was preliminary, and a toxicology report would still be carried out. She said a final report would not be complete for several days.

Milosevic was found dead Saturday in his cell. The remains will be released to his family Monday, she said. (Funeral feud)

The autopsy was carried out by Dutch authorities, with the two Serbian doctors overseeing their work.

Word of the results came as U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte characterized as "rumors" some suggestions that Milosevic may have committed suicide or been poisoned, as his lawyer and some of his supporters have charged.

"Until we have precise facts and results, it's absolutely rumors," she said. "So, I'm not commenting on these rumors."

She expressed regret and frustration that Milosevic died before his trial was ended and a verdict reached.

"It deprives the victims of the justice they need and deserve," she told reporters. "What they are asking for is that justice be done, and now it will not be possible." (Watch a concentration camp survivor share his thoughts -- 4:51

The 64-year-old Milosevic was on trial for 66 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Balkans during the 1990s.

Milosevic's death came just a few months before the expected conclusion of his trial, which had lasted more than four years. (Watch what allegations brought Milosevic to The Hague -- 4:46)

Judge Fausto Pocar, the president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said the death shortchanged victims and their families by preventing them from getting closure.

"It is extremely unfortunate that the victims and their families will not have a final answer in this case," he said

On Saturday, Milosevic's chief lawyer, Zdenko Tomanovic, said Milosevic had asserted there were attempts to poison him while he was in custody.

Tomanovic said he and the family wanted the autopsy to be performed in Russia, where Milosevic family members live, but that request was denied.

Pocar said that under tribunal rules an autopsy must be performed in the tribunal's host country, in this case the Netherlands.

A spokesperson for the tribunal said that, at the time of Milosevic's death, a Dutch medical team had been carrying out an investigation into whether Milosevic had foreign substances in his blood. Milosevic had said such substances were interfering with his blood-pressure medication.

Milosevic had high blood pressure, heart problems and other ailments.

"The tribunal has killed my husband," his widow, Mirjana, told CNN.

His brother Boroslav said that "all responsibility for what has happened rests with" the tribunal. (Watch Milosevic's brother blame the tribunal -- 4:15)

"It is four months since Slobodan asked to let him go for medical treatment."

U.S. condemnation

Milosevic's death has generated a range of reactions.

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that some observers would have preferred that the trial have ended with a verdict.

But, she said, "I think the final verdict of history about Milosevic is pretty clear."

"He was one of the most maligned forces in Europe in quite a long time, I think undoubtedly responsible for the deaths of many, many, many people and responsible for ... policies that led ultimately to the breakup of his country and the estrangement of parts of it from the international system for quite a long time," she said.

Milosevic, nicknamed the "Butcher of the Balkans," faced 66 counts for war crimes from the conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. The counts included genocide in Bosnia, a bloody conflict known for "ethnic cleansing" -- which in this case was the killing and ousting of Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs.

"Milosevic was the principal figure responsible for the violent dismemberment of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, including the outbreak of two horrific wars in Bosnia and Kosovo," the State Department said.

Serbian President Boris Tadic expressed condolences to the Milosevic family, while former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Paddy Ashdown said the former Yugoslav president led "the great nation of Serbs into catastrophe and shame."

The high representative position was created under the Dayton accords that brought peace to the warring factions in Bosnia in 1995. (Read reactions)

Tribunal carries on

The war-crimes tribunal vowed to carry on its work, bringing suspected war criminals to justice for acts during the Balkan wars of the last decade -- especially Milosevic's right-hand men, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, who remain at large.

Mladic, the former leader of the Bosnian Serb army, and Karadzic, the political leader, are charged with the July 1995 massacre at Srebrenica of 8,000 Muslim men and boys. (Srebrenica: 'A triumph of evil')

"We continue the search of the fugitives," del Ponte said.

She said the cooperation continues in the region -- and she believes Mladic and Karadzic will "be brought to The Hague, even very soon."

Milosevic's death comes a day before the third anniversary of the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who was integral in the overthrow of Milosevic.(Full story)

His death also comes less than a week after Milan Babic, former leader of rebel Serbs, committed suicide. Babic was serving a 13-year sentence for war crimes and was found dead in his cell at the same prison in The Hague where Milosevic died. (Details)

It is not clear whether Milosevic's death will have any impact on diplomatic efforts this year to determine the future of Kosovo, the disputed region of Serbia dominated by Albanians.

The United Nations has administered Kosovo since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid grave human rights abuses in the fighting between Serbs and Albanians.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Matthew Chance, Paula Hancock, Brent Sadler and Alessio Vinci contributed to this report

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