Milosevic's death marks 'total defeat' for UN tribunal, prosecutor says
Carla Del Ponte made the comments on Sunday, a day after the former Yugoslav president and Serbian nationalist was found dead in his cell at the UN detention centre in Scheveningen, a suburb of The Hague.
An autopsy was being performed on Sunday amid accusations that Milosevic, 64, had been poisoned only months before the end of his four-year trial.
The autopsy was being performed by pathologists in the Netherlands and observed by a pathologist from Serbia. Results were not expected for at least a day.
Del Ponte told the Italian daily La Repubblica that she viewed Milosevic's death as a "total defeat" for the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
He was facing 66 charges, including genocide, stemming from the series of wars that tore apart the Balkans for a decade, leaving 250,000 dead.
Del Ponte said she believed the prospect of a guilty verdict may have prompted Milosevic to kill himself.
"Perhaps he wanted to avoid all that," she said. "You have the choice between a normal, natural death and suicide, and of course it could be possible."
Milosevic suffered from a heart condition and high blood pressure and his ill health had repeatedly interrupted his trial. On Saturday, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Milosevic died of natural causes
On Sunday, the war crimes tribunal president said he ordered the autopsy and a toxicological examination after a report from the Dutch coroner that failed to establish the cause of death.
Milosevic thought he was being poisoned, lawyer says
But his death fuelled accusations of conspiracy on Sunday, as his supporters insisting that Milosevic was a victim of foul play and had possibly been poisoned.
Milosevic's legal adviser, Zdenko Tomanovic, showed reporters on Sunday a lengthy letter he said the former leader wrote on Friday.
In it, Milosevic said traces of a "heavy drug" had been found in his bloodstream and said he feared he was being poisoned.
"They would like to poison me," Tomanovic quoted Milosevic as telling him.
Massive outpouring of grief in Serbia
Thousands of people lined up to light candles and sign books of condolences on Sunday throughout Serbia, where many people regard Milosevic as a hero who tried to preserve Serbia's place as the dominant Yugoslav republic.
"They regard the circumstances of his death as extremely suspicious," said CBC correspondent Don Murray, who was in Belgrade.
"The country remains very divided in the wake of his death."
Murray said that many Serbs regard Milosevic as "a victim of machinations of the West."
2nd death in week at UN detention centre
Milosevic's detractors denounced him as a mass murderer, blaming him for leading Serbia into four Balkan wars, including the 1992-95 Bosnia conflict that left 200,000 people dead.
He was accused of overseeing the systematic killing of about 8,000 men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995, the worst massacre on European soil since the Second World War.
Eventually NATO sent 60,000 peacekeepers to the area to end the fighting and keep the Bosnian, Serb and Croatian armies apart.
Milosevic's death was the second one within a week at the UN detention centre in Scheveningen.
Former Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic, serving 13 years for crimes against humanity, committed suicide in his cell last weekend.