BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) – The body of Slobodan Milosevic returned home Wednesday to a low-key welcome, with baggage handlers unceremoniously removing the former president’s casket from a jetliner’s cargo hold after a slew of suitcases.

But some diehards who stood in the cold and snow flurries greeted his coffin with tears, kisses and wailing, reflecting the divisive emotions that Milosevic can still muster, even in death.

Milosevic died last weekend at a U.N. detention center in the Netherlands near the war crimes tribunal that was trying him on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. He will be buried Saturday in the grounds of the family estate in the industrial town of Pozarevac, about 30 miles southeast of Belgrade, an official of Milosevic’s Socialist Party said.

After days of wrangling over his final resting place, Milosevic’s body arrived from Amsterdam aboard a commercial JAT Airways jetliner in a black coffin wrapped with plastic sheeting and packing tape. The casket emerged on a conveyer belt last from the plane, behind passengers’ bags and a baby stroller.

Members of Milosevic’s Socialist Party stood at the airport, holding a large wreath decorated with red roses, the party symbol. A red ribbon on the wreath read: “Slobo the Hero,” and party faithful draped a red, blue and white Serbian flag over the casket, some bending over to kiss it, others wiping away tears.

Serbia’s government has refused to hold a state ceremony, leaving it to Milosevic’s family and his Socialist allies to organize the return, funeral and burial.

Several people tossed flowers at the roof of the hearse carrying the coffin away as a few elderly women wailed loudly.

“You came home, my son, Slobo!” cried one, Milica Kojic, 74. “They killed him in that dungeon.”

Police had to open a path through several hundred weeping supporters so the hearse could bring the body to the morgue in Belgrade’s central St. Sava Hospital. B-92 television said its crew was attacked by the crowd, which shouted “Ustashas! Ustashas!” – the Serbo-Croat name for Croatia’s Nazi movement during World War II.

Questions and accusations have swirled this week about Milosevic’s death. His son, Marko, says he was poisoned; the tribunal says he had a heart attack, but toxicology results have not been announced; Russia says Milosevic was not properly treated.

After days of uncertainty, Marko Milosevic was finally granted a Dutch visa to go The Hague to take his father’s body away. But it was unclear whether he or his mother, Mirjana Markovic – who is wanted in Serbia on charges of abuse of power during her husband’s rule – would return from self-imposed exile in Russia to attend the funeral.

A Belgrade court on Tuesday suspended a warrant for her arrest, but ordered her passport to be seized upon arrival, which would prevent her from leaving the country immediately after the burial.

Belgrade authorities rejected requests that the body lie in the federal parliament for public viewing, so those who wish to pay their respects will have to view the coffin at the Revolution Museum, just blocks away from the presidential villa where Milosevic was arrested in 2001.

The body will then be taken to Pozarevac for private burial beneath his favorite linden tree.

The Socialists, ousted from power along with Milosevic in 2000, are hoping to make political gains from their leader’s death. They had demanded a funeral with state honors at a cemetery reserved for prominent Serbs, but authorities rejected that demand, reflecting the controversy about his legacy.

Socialist party official Zoran Andjelkovic said the body also would be put on public view in the Pozarevac City Hall before Saturday’s burial.

Milosevic’s followers hold municipal power in Pozarevac, unlike in Belgrade, where city authorities are dominated by the pro-Western Democratic Party, led by President Boris Tadic, and were determined to steer clear of anything that could be seen as legitimizing Milosevic or his policies.

But the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party urged retired police and army officers to attend the funeral in ceremonial uniforms in a show of respect for the man who took them to four wars during his 13-year rule.

There are fears that nationalists could use the funeral to try win back power. In pressing for a Belgrade ceremony, the Socialists threatened to topple the minority government if Milosevic were to be denied a funeral in Serbia.

Milorad Vucelic, the Socialists’ vice president, said he did not know if Milosevic’s wife and son would attend. But Sergei Baburin, a Russian nationalist lawmaker, said in Moscow that Markovic would not travel because Serbian security guarantees were “insufficient.”

Associated Press writers Misha Savic, Jovana Gec and William J. Kole contributed to this story.

AP-ES-03-15-06 1546EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.