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Milosevic to visit with wife after 3 weeks away

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Slobodan Milosevic will welcome his wife Thursday and perhaps spend some private moments in one of the "intimacy rooms" on offer at his new home.

The ousted Yugoslav president, held in isolation at The Hague war crimes tribunal's detention center since his arrival on June 29, last saw his wife, Mirjana Markovic, three weeks ago.

When whisked away to answer war crimes charges in The Hague, Serbia's one-time dream couple looked set for a long separation.

Despite a European Union ban forbidding Milosevic's family from traveling, Markovic is expected to arrive in the Netherlands Thursday to see her former teenage sweetheart and his new surroundings.

Milosevic, whose wife describes him as "cute and likable," is indicted on four counts, including crimes against humanity, related to the mass deportation and killing of ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo in 1999.

He is the tribunal's biggest catch, but, like all other inmates, is entitled to visits from family and friends.

The tribunal stresses its detention unit is not a prison but a center for people awaiting trial. Many of the 39 inmates are awaiting their trials and must accordingly be treated as innocent.

The unit, in the leafy Hague suburb of Scheveningen, allows in visitors between 9 a.m. and 4:45 p.m., and 9 a.m. to noon Sundays.

An hour's break for lunch and guard changes give family and friends three hours in the morning and almost four in the afternoon to share with their loved ones.

"We try to be as flexible as possible. We are far more generous than most remand centers," said tribunal spokesman Jim Landale.

The tribunal declines to give details of detainees' private matters, but couples can typically expect to be provided with rooms for conjugal visits, dubbed "intimacy rooms."

Family and friends, unlike witnesses, have to bear the cost of their visits, but mindful of the distance and expense involved, the tribunal says it tries to grant as much access as possible — although the rooms can fill up at certain times.

Markovic, holder of a three-day visa for entry to the Netherlands, has until Saturday to be with the man she calls her hero and tell him how she is coping with him gone.

"I cannot do anything on my own, without him. He has always been around in my life, and now I have to look after everything," she was quoted as saying in a Croatian weekly this month.

Markovic has been dubbed the "Red Witch" for her public support of leftist ideology and Serbia's "Lady Macbeth" for her strong influence over her husband.

To Milosevic, she has been a key political ally and a dear wife.

She can provide little support for him in his current predicament, but will hope to make her husband slightly more comfortable. Detainees can receive gifts so long as they are not edible, and visitors typically bring books and compact discs.

Belgrade lawyers who visited Milosevic at the start of his detention said money, clothes and books were top of his wish list. The lawyers tried to oblige—but ran into trouble when the bags they were bringing for the former president disappeared in transit.