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Supporters of Yugoslav Opposition Overrun State Television Station and Parliament

Aired October 5, 2000 - 4:31 p.m. ET


UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: It's hard to believe Thursday that they had finally done it. A demonstration in front of the federal parliament, turned into a siege of the building and then a seizure. By the day's end, the opposition was taken control of some of the most important institutions in the country and doing it unopposed. No police, no army, sometimes no one at all to stand in their way. And no sign at all of the president.

For now at least, it's as if the Milosevic government has melted. On our program today for viewers in the United States and around the world, an extraordinary day in Belgrade. CNN's Bureau Chief there, Alessio Vinci, has been watching events as they have unfolded and he joins us now -- Alessio.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN BELGRADE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Jonathan, we have been repeating all day today how little intervention the police have shown in trying to prevent those demonstrators from entering the parliament building. How little presence in the streets of the police. And we have seen. And also we've had from an opposition leader earlier today, telling us that the police had collapsed.

However, that same opposition leader just told us that opposition representatives here in Belgrade talked to the head of the police, the Belgrade police here in downtown Belgrade, and requested a meeting within the Interior Minister of Serbia. However, according to that opposition minister, the Interior Minister has refused to see, to meet with the opposition representatives. So it is still unclear exactly what the police intentions are at this time. What is the army going to do? We don't really know.

What we know is that so far they have refrained from intervening. We have hundreds of thousand of people celebrating in the streets of Belgrade at this time. We have them walking in the street, drinking, singing, celebrating, really, a dramatic turn of events here that in less than seven hours. First briefly clashing with the police outside of the parliament building, where they first broke through a cordon of policemen and then managed to take control of the building within a few hours. And then later on, just a few hours later, taking control of state television and now celebrating for hours on end, throughout the streets of Belgrade.

The opposition leaders are telling us that they want now, they want to try to keep these people in the streets because, although, there is an air of freedom and of liberty here in the streets of Belgrade, certainly we have not heard yet from major state institutions like the army and the police. What exactly are they going to do? This is still a major concern, of course, here for the opposition. They don't want to try to diminish the will of the people here to celebrate and to continue to stay all night.

But on the other side, it is still unclear what exactly the army and the police will do. I think that in a next few hours, this will give us a pretty good indication whether those celebrations will continue throughout the night and even in the next coming days and that they lead eventually to the fact that President Milosevic will have to give up power. Or to the contrary, whether at some point, maybe waiting for those demonstrators to wear down, eventually President Milosevic will try to do a final move and move against those demonstrators.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, reporting live from Belgrade.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Alessio, stay with us. But for a moment, we're going to look back at how this all unfolded. Even opposition leaders are stunned by the turn of events. They've been trying to unseat President Milosevic at the polls or with protests for years.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice-over): They got their chance when Mr. Milosevic himself called an election early on September 24th. Opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica campaigned tirelessly and independent and opposition counts suggested that he did win a clear majority of the votes.

For its part, the government electoral commission said that Mr. Kostunica outpolled the president, but failed to receive 50 percent of the votes cast as required, and it ordered a second ballot. The regime was preparing for that second round of voting this Sunday. But the opposition promised a boycott instead, and mounted a general strike.

Wednesday, the constitutional court of Yugoslavia ruled that the first round was in fact invalid, indicating an entirely new presidential election might be required, further, distancing Mr. Milosevic from that apparent first round loss.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That was Jonathan Mann, reporting from CNN International on the program "Insight."

We now want to go to Nic Robertson. He's in Podgorica, Montenegro. No one is watching the unfolding situation in Belgrade more closely than the people of Montenegro, one of the republics, one of the separate republics of the Yugoslav republic.

Nic, tell us what the reaction is over in Montenegro? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Wolf. They've really been spectators here in Montenegro for the last week and a half since the elections, watching essentially every move that happens in Serbia, following the demonstrations in all the cities. Tonight is no exception at all. People are watching on their television sets what coverage they can find, some it coming from international television organizations that's in the cafes on the streets of Montenegro, part of Greece, the capital here.

But the thing that's happening here is the government has stepped up its security on the streets. The big fear in Montenegro has been that should Mr. Milosevic find himself in a complete jam in Serbia, the fear was that he might turn up the heat in Montenegro, use the army to create a crisis here to divert attention from problems at home. That has been the fear and the security forces here, the police, are out in a very strong presence, not only in the capital, but all throughout Montenegro this evening. I'm joined by Dragisa Burzan, he is the deputy prime minister here in Montenegro. Mr. Burzan, how do you read the situation in Belgrade right now.

DRAGISA BURZAN, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, MONTENEGRO: Well, I think that the situation is moving in the right direction, and my hope is that we will see the end. Tomorrow, about we are still very concerned, as you said. We still have got some concerns whether Milosevic can produce something new. Seems some units presumably loyal to Mr. Milosevic have not been used yet. So although we are much more relaxed than we used to be yesterday, we are looking into a situation with a good feeling to get rid of the dictator after almost 15 years, and seeing some new relation in the region, and hopefully, better contacts for everybody, and probably normal life.

ROBERTSON: What, if you will, is Montenegro's most important item on the agenda with a new government and in Belgrade?

BURZAN: Well, we have a lot of things to resolve. These last three years especially have been quite a different period for us, and I would say that a lot of negative things, lot of negative energy accumulated during that period. And now it's time for dialogue time, for good relations. Time to see what we can do to on relations, to improve on life, generally, and improve on relation in the region. That's very bad. That is very important.

ROBERTSON: On the presidential elections, the government here called for a boycott. Your government called for a boycott. Three- quarters of the population stayed away from the polls. Now you have none of your MP's in the Yugoslav government. How do you address that?

BURZAN: Well, it's a real concern. But that is not the problem which cannot be solved, and there are even some more serious problems, and some more difficult things to be done. So we hope that dialogue and new atmosphere, new people will change everything.

ROBERTSON: The poll relations with Serbia have led there to be calls for independence within Montenegro, to be pull out of the Yugoslavia. Where does the government stand on that now given these changes?

BURZAN: First of all, government will develop dialogue and do everything to see Mr. Kostunica on his place, where he evidently belongs now because he has been elected president in a democratic way. Although elections were not regular, I would say that it was the popular voice that was -- overwhelming voice of the people and very, very much fair outcome. And so we would like first thing in the morning, they should do, in my opinion is to establish wherever they can, new authorities.

It means they have been elected now as local authority. It is vital that apart from this pressure exercised toward Milosevic, they normalize functions in terms of having their people occupying very important posts. So Milosevic will be in that way even more pressurized and will be probably without an answer for such a situation.

ROBERTSON: We know so far that there is no clear direction on what is the army is doing at the moment. What are you seeing the army basis, the Yugoslav army that's loyal to Mr. Milosevic, we believe, what do you see on those basis here in Montenegro?

BURZAN: Nothing peculiar, I would say. But we got some very good news, which we will further check. But our estimate at this moment is that the army will not interfere. And that is a very good -- those are very good news, and, but, as I said, we are very cautious although things are going well. That's my opinion.

ROBERTSON: Mr. Burzan, thank you very much.

Wolf, the situation in Montenegro, it will continue to watch what happens in Serbia, as is has done in the last few weeks. But the top issue for them is establishing a new relationship with Serbia. It has fallen into very hard times over the last couple of years. The hope of this government is that a new leadership in Belgrade, they can strike a new relationship -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Nic Robertson in Montenegro. Thank you so much for joining us.



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