Supporters mark anniversary of Milosevic death

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ADMIRERS of Slobodan Milosevic marked the first anniversary of the former Yugoslav leader's death with wreaths and speeches yesterday, even as Serbia continues to grapple with the consequences of his ruinous rule.

Officials from the Socialist Party, which Milosevic once led, gathered at his grave in the eastern town of Pozarevac, praising the man who led Serbia through several wars and ended up in the dock of the UN war crimes court.

"Milosevic was an honourable man who worked for the benefit of Serbia and its people," said supporter Bogoljub Bjelica.

Milosevic was found dead in his jail cell just weeks before the expected end of his trial for alleged war crimes, including genocide, during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

"Milosevic's policies led Serbia to a horrible situation. We're still dealing with the devastating effects of his legacy," said Jelena Markovic, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of the current president, Boris Tadic.

As Milosevic's unrepentant supporters glorified the ex-president, Tadic was dealing with one of the effects of his rule - attending UN-mediated talks in Vienna with ethnic Albanian officials from Kosovo, the southern province whose attempts to break away from Serbia prompted Milosevic to use brutal force.

Milosevic's campaign in Kosovo took Serbia to war with Nato in 1999. The alliance bombed the country for 78 days and later turned the province into an international protectorate.

In the ongoing talks on Kosovo's future, the ethnic Albanians insist on full independence. Serbian officials have offered them only broad autonomy.

Milosevic's 1990s war efforts in Bosnia and Croatia turned Serbia into an international pariah and left it impoverished and isolated after sanctions were imposed.