For Serbian Government, Milosevic Still a Divider

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro -- Even in death, Slobodan Milosevic has managed to split Serbia with plans for his funeral, which are pushing the republic to the brink of a crisis.

The former autocratic president's loyalists plan to have Milosevic's body displayed beneath a makeshift tent in front of Belgrade's federal parliament building -- the very spot where a massive protest led to the late Serbian president's ouster on Oct, 5, 2000.

Only hours after Milosevic's death in his prison cell near the UN war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands on Saturday, his ultranationalist allies began planning a massive funeral gathering with a clear goal to destabilize the forces that ousted Milosevic from power and sent him to The Hague in 2001.

The Radicals, who supported Milosevic in his war campaigns in the Balkans in the 1990s, promised to bus into the capital "hundreds of thousands" of their supporters and "show that the villains did not manage to kill Serbia" -- a reference aimed mostly against the Democratic Party city authorities in Belgrade who led the revolt against Milosevic.

"What was October 5? A pure coup d'etat. If they did it then, so why shouldn't we do it now?" asked Radical Party deputy president Tomislav Nikolic.

The plan to display Milosevic's body in a tent at the bottom of the steps of the federal parliament, where tens of thousands of anti-Milosevic demonstrators launched their assault into the domed building before setting it on fire in 2000, has infuriated some of those who took part in the riots.

"I'll strap myself with explosives and rip into pieces those who will be there to mourn Milosevic," said a caller during a live radio program in Belgrade. "OK, I won't go that far, but that's how I feel now about all this mess created around Milosevic, Serbia's biggest gravedigger who has wrecked our lives for so many years."

"Let them dare remove the tent," said Zoran Andjelkovic, a ranking Milosevic's Socialist party official, challenging Democratic Party authorities in Belgrade who, he claimed, denied them permission to display the body inside the parliament or at another state building in Belgrade.

Nenad Bogdanovic, the Belgrade democratic mayor, said Milosevic's allies "are abusing one death in an ugly manner."

"I'm disgusted by the attempt of [Milosevic's] forces to capitalize on his death by triggering political clashes," Bogdanovic said.

In apparent negotiations with Serbia's conservative-led government, the Socialists have dropped their demands that Milosevic be buried with state honors at the "Ally of the Greats" -- a Belgrade graveyard reserved for prominent Serbs.

"Every Serb has the right to be buried in his own country, but the former Yugoslav president has caused so much misery throughout these regions to deserve any state protocol," said Bojan Kostres, an official who took part in the anti-Milosevic riots in 2000.

Instead, Milosevic will be laid to rest on Saturday in the backyard of his family home in Pozarevac, his former political stronghold about 50 kilometers southeast of Belgrade -- an obvious attempt to create a permanent shrine for the former president.