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Serbia holds state funeral for Tito's widow, Jovanka

The former first lady of Yugoslavia has been laid to rest in a state funeral in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Thousands attended a burial ceremony for the third wife of the late leader Jozip Broz Tito.

The widow of Tito, Jovanka Broz, was laid to rest with full state honors on Saturday, close to her husband in the House of Flowers mausoleum in Belgrade.

More than 1,000 people - many from the other former republics that made up Yugoslavia - were present for the somber ceremony, which was held without a religious service.

A military guard fired a salute in memory of Broz, a decorated World War II veteran who fought with the partisan movement and married Tito in 1952. The funeral also included a guard of honor from her former comrades.

"Today, we don't just bid farewell to Jovanka Broz, we bid farewell to Tito's era," Serbia's Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said in a eulogy. "Today marks the departure of the last icon of the former Yugoslavia."

"Jovanka was our first lady, our pride and the representative of our state ... an important part of our history that we have discarded and forgotten," Dacic said.

"Rest in peace, next to the man you dedicated your life to," said Dacic, whose political roots go back to the former Yugoslavia's ruling Communist Party.

"Long live Yugoslavia," chanted some of those present.

Broz, 31 years the junior of Tito, died of heart failure last Sunday at the age of 88.

Although the couple were married for nearly 30 years, Broz and Tito drifted apart and she was accused by some of the leader's allies of plotting a coup. She was placed under virtual house arrest after her husband's death in 1980, having made her last public appearance at his funeral.

Once a symbol of elegance, Broz lived largely in isolation in the years that followed, inhabiting in a crumbling villa as the country broke into several separate states in the post-communist era.

Tito's legacy and that of Yugoslavia have regained some popularity in recent years, even among younger people.

rc/mkg (AFP, AP, Reuters)