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Autopsy Opened into Milosevic Death at Tribunal


Dutch pathologists have begun an autopsy and toxicology study to determine the cause of death of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Serb authorities were sent to observe the procedures today, one day after Milosevic was found dead in his cell at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The court's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, said claims that the 64 year old had been poisoned or had committed suicide were "rumors."

But a lawyer for Milosevic told reporters at the tribunal that the defendant wrote a letter one day before his death, saying he feared he was being poisoned.

The attorney Zdenko Tomanovic said the letter claimed that a recent blood screening had found traces of antibiotics which Milosevic claimed he had never taken.

Milosevic was standing trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for his role in the Balkans conflicts in the 1990s.

The trial had been interrupted repeatedly because of Milosevic's health problems, caused by high blood pressure and heart disease.

Last month, the tribunal denied his request to travel to Russia for medical treatment, ruling that the 64 year old could be treated by doctors at The Hague.

Begun in February 2002, the trial was due to end in coming months.

Last week, former rebel Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic committed suicide in his cell at the tribunal, where he was serving a 13 year sentence for crimes against humanity in the 1990s.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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