Izetbegovic was admitted to hospital in September after fainting at home and breaking four ribs. He later underwent treatment for a chronic heart problem.

But his condition became critical on Friday when he suffered serious bleeding in his left lung and he died in a Sarajevo hospital on Sunday.

The 78-year-old former Bosnian Muslim leader retired from politics in 2000 after complaining of ill health. He had been receiving treatment for heart disease in the US, Saudi Arabia and Slovenia.

He leaves his wife Halida and three children: Sabina, Lejla and Bakir.

The vice president of the Party For Democratic Action (FDA) told AlJazeera.net that Izetbegovic's death was a blow for Muslims and the wider community in Bosnia.

 ''Mr Izetbegovic was the best example of understanding between Muslims and non Muslims. His loss will be felt by many people, and we Bosnian Muslims are very proud to have had him as our leader,'' said Mirsad Kebo.


Popular figure
 
Izetbegovic was a popular figure in Bosnian Muslim politics and was respected for leading the Bosnia struggle for independence from the former Yugoslavia.
 
Bosnia broke away from Yugoslavia in 1992 after the nationalist government of Slobodan Milosevic attempted to consolidate Serbian domination of the Yugoslav federation.

Izetbegovic led Bosnia’s Muslims, who made up 44% of the state’s population, in a savage war from 1992 to 1995 against the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army and local Serb forces representing the 32% of Bosnians who were Serbs.

He became a well known and respected figure in the West, where he was seen as a relatively moderate leader facing widely-demonised Serb commanders guilty of massacring Muslim civilians and prisoners.

But for Bosnian Serbs, Izetbegovic was a war criminal whom they have accused of mass genocide, filing charges against him at the UN war crimes tribunal.