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Croatia says sorry Milosevic escaped sentence

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ZAGREB, March 11 (Reuters) Croatia today said it was sorry that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had died in prison before being sentenced for his role in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

''It's a pity that Milosevic did not live through the trial and get his deserved sentence,'' President Stjepan Mesic's office said in a brief statement.

A government statement said Milosevic's death marked ''a definite end of the most difficult, dramatic and disastrous period in the last 50 years for the countries and people of this part of Europe''.

''With his aggressive policies, he set the war machine in motion,'' it said.

All radio and television programmes in Croatia flashed the news of Milosevic's death in his cell at the United Nations war crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

The unsigned government statement said: ''Several hundred thousand dead, millions of refugees, billions of euros of damage, dozens of destroyed towns, ethnic cleansing, genocide, those are all consequences of Milosevic's policies.'' ''A look at that time should serve as a warning so that this evil should never happen again,'' it added.

Milosevic is largely seen in Croatia as the main culprit in a bloody war Zagreb had to fight against its rebel Serb minority, backed and armed by Belgrade, after declaring independence in 1991.

REUTERS KD RK2125

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