Thursday, 6 December 2012

Serbia's NATO ambassador leaps to his death

Branislav Milinkovic sits at a NATO
conference in Brussels, Dec. 14, 2006.
(Source: Reuters)
Serbia's ambassador to NATO 'chatted and joked' with colleagues before jumping to his death from a multi-story parking garage at Brussels Airport on Tuesday afternoon, AAP reports.

Branislav Milinkovic, a respected diplomat and lawyer appointed to the ambassadorship in 2009, was at the airport to greet Serbian delegates arriving for a scheduled NATO conference, and gave no indication of what he intended in the moments before leaping to his death, Serbian officials say.

The 52-year-old's mysterious death has shocked international officials, including NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who said he was "deeply saddened by the tragic death of the Serbian ambassador."

"As Serbian ambassador to NATO he earned the respect and admiration of his fellow ambassadors," he said.

Over the past two decades, Milinkovic had been heavily involved in fostering closer relations between Serbia and other former Yugoslav nations, as well as with Western Europe.

During the 1990s, he was active in the opposition to Serbia's former war-time president and strongman Slobodan Milisevic, before being appointed as Serbian ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna in 2000.

Milinkovic was transferred to NATO as Serbia's special representative in 2004, where he was eventually named ambassador after Belgrade joined NATO's Partnership for Peace program, which groups together non-member states of the military alliance.

Investigations by Belgian police into a possible motive for his death are ongoing.

Milinkovic is survived by his wife and son.

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