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Officials: Serbia's NATO ambassador leaps to death

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 6:52 a.m.
In this Dec. 14, 2006 file photo, Serbia's Ambassador to NATO Branislav Milinkovic is seen during a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. A Serbian government statement said Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, that 52-year old Milinkovic committed suicide by leaping from a busy parking garage platform at Brussels Airport on Tuesday night. A diplomat who could not be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media said Milinkovic suddenly jumped from the 26- to 33-foot-high platform while waiting with the Serbian delegation for foreign ministry officials due to hold talks with NATO officials. NATO

BRUSSELS — Serbia's ambassador to NATO suddenly jumped to his death off a parking garage platform at Brussels Airport while surrounded by his country's delegation, a diplomat said Wednesday.

The Serbian government said in a statement that Branislav Milinkovic, 52, died on Monday night, during two days of meetings of NATO foreign ministers.

Milinkovic was at the airport to meet deputy foreign minister Zoran Vujic and other officials who were due to hold talks with NATO representatives, three diplomats who knew him said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details. After the delegation arrived, as they walked over to their cars in the diplomatic garage Milinkovic suddenly strolled to a barrier, climbed over it and jumped, one of the diplomats said.

Serbia is not a member of the military alliance, but has a mission in the headquarters complex because it belongs to NATO's Partnership for Peace program, which groups neutral states.

“NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was deeply saddened by the tragic death of the Serbian ambassador,” alliance spokeswoman Carmen Romero said. “Ambassador Branislav Milinkovic was a highly respected representative of his country and will be missed at NATO headquarters.”

Milinkovic, a former journalist, had previously served as Serbia's ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe in Vienna. He was appointed to the NATO post in 2009. Previously, he was active in the opposition to the authoritarian regime of Serbia's former strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

The statement described him as “an excellent diplomat, a leading intellectual and a noble man.”

Milinkovic is survived by a wife and 6-year-old son.

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