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Tens of Thousands Gather in Downtown Belgrade to Celebrate Kostunica's Victory

Aired September 27, 2000 - 2:39 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We have some developing news in Belgrade Yugoslavia, where it is 8:39 p.m. Bureau chief Alessio Vinci is on the line with me now and we are looking at pictures of thousands of opposition folks in Republic Square.

What's going on Alessio?

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, actually, tens of thousands of people are gathered -- are gathering right now in downtown Belgrade. Not just in Republic Square, because there is not enough room for them to hold all of these people who are gathering here. They are responding, a call from the opposition leaders, who are claiming that they already won this election on Sunday. And they are gathering here in the streets to celebrate this victory.

Republic Square, and the surrounding streets here in Belgrade are known throughout the 10 years of Mr. Milosevic's regime as being a square where the people protested against him. However, tonight, they are celebrating. They are celebrating a victory. They're celebrating what they are calling a historical victory. They are already distributing leaflets with the name of Mr. Kostunica, saying the president of Yugoslavia.

So, at this point, as I said, shortly after -- shortly before 9:00 p.m. local time here, they are going to hear from Mr. Kostunica in about an hour. Mr. Kostunica will tell the people: It is important to protect the victory, but it is also important not to provoke police.

I am Alessio Vinci, CNN, reporting live from Belgrade.

WATERS: Alessio, we understand this rally was scheduled earlier, in front of the parliament building, but was dispersed or somehow stopped by police, correct?

VINCI: That is correct. Actually it was scheduled at the same time and so earlier today, the opposition organizers started to build the span, or the stage, where Mr. Kostunica was supposed to address the crowd from. However, police, despite the fact that they had originally authorized that rally, came in today and ordered the organizers to move the stand from in front of the parliament. Mr. (inaudible), the campaign manager, explained to us, later on, that the electoral commission, which is meeting inside of the federal parliament had requested that the meeting took place away from the parliament because the noise would have disturbed their work.

Of course, the opposition here is complaining that the electoral commission is actually not doing its job at all and they're still waiting to find out what the final results will be for this election. Now, I would like to remind you, this election that has been contested at this point, because the opposition claims they already won an outright victory with 54 percent of the vote for Mr. Kostunica, but the backers of President Slobodan Milosevic claim that a runoff is necessary on October eighth, because Mr. Kostunica, they say, has only received 48 percent of the votes against 40 percent for Mr. Milosevic -- Lou.

WATERS: And what are we hearing from Milosevic?

VINCI: We are hearing absolutely nothing, Lou. It is really a long silence. Also, it is a long silence, not only from him, but also from most of his top officials. The evening newscast here, which ended just a few minutes ago had absolutely nothing. Only the foreign minister came on television, gave an interview, where he accused foreign media of interference in this country. But very few mentioned on the results here -- Lou.

WATERS: Are the police in any way attempting to curtail the current demonstration going on? We can assume that, by the size of it, there is nothing in that regard.

VINCI: Absolutely, no, Lou, no, Lou. There was some concern especially during the early stages of the electoral campaign that perhaps police could have intervened to break down those kind of demonstrations, especially both sides to declare victory. However, we have not seen here, at least here in downtown Belgrade, any increased police presence.

We know that this rally is authorized at this point and therefore, there is no reason for the police to intervene. However, the question remains. First of all, what will happen tomorrow evening, once the electoral commission will issue final results? And if those results not going to give the victory to the opposition, we will have to see how the people will react.

So far, I would like to stress: this is not a demonstration to protest against President Milosevic this is a show of support for Mr. Kostunica who won this election. It is a celebratory demonstration. Not a show of protest against Mr. Milosevic, at least not tonight. Back to you Lou.

WATERS: All right, Alessio Vinci, Belgrade bureau chief.

And Mr. Kostunica is expected to speak in an hour. Alessio Vinci and his CNN crew will be keeping watch.

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