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Yugoslav Revolution: Milosevic Remains in Belgrade as Russian Prime Minister Recognizes Kostunica as President-Elect

Aired October 6, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin in Yugoslavia. Slobodan Milosevic surfaced today looking quite at home in Belgrade, not looking like a man who plans to go quickly or quietly. Across town, President-elect Vojislav Kostunica tried to cement power, drawing surprise support from the Russians.

The events of the last 24 hours have dramatically altered not only the political landscape in Yugoslavia, but perhaps the entire Eastern European neighborhood.

CNN's Brent Sadler is in Belgrade. He joins us with the latest from there -- Brent.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Natalie.

First of all, another twist in this political saga still playing out here in Belgrade. Yugoslavia's constitutional court has announced a U-turn in a decision it had made earlier, now recognizing that Vojislav Kostunica had won the first round of elections back on September 24, a very important acknowledgment there for the opposition.

Celebrations, as you can hear behind me here in Belgrade, show no sign of petering out. At the same time, it's being reported here that the man they voted out of office, Slobodan Milosevic, still seems to be clinging to the hope that he has a political future in this country.

Mr. Milosevic was seen on television here just a few hours ago, even after the dramatic events of the past two days when the opposition is now in control, it seems, of the capital here, Belgrade.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): His power base in shreds, Slobodan Milosevic still calling himself Yugoslav president, meets Russia's foreign minister, Igor Ivanov. Moscow, though, turns its back on old ally, recognizing instead a new president, Vojislav Kostunica, and the still-emerging political reality of Serbia.

IGOR IVANOV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I have delivered to Mr. Kostunica greetings from Mr. President Putin, and I have congratulated him, his victory on presidential elections. SADLER: Music to the ears of masses of people jamming central Belgrade. It adds up to an epitaph they believe fit for their former president, his precise whereabouts unknown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now I want to just live in a free country and I want to be a part of the world. And I think, I don't know, this is absolutely the most wonderful thing that could happen.

SADLER: And they savor the day in style.

(on camera): Having turned 13 years of iron-grip rule of Slobodan Milosevic on its head, waves of euphoria sweep through the crowds here in Belgrade, the regime which governed them apparently cornered and barely visible.

(voice-over): Opposition leaders say they might have permitted Mr. Milosevic to stay quietly in Serbia had he admitted election defeat gracefully. But now they say there is no choice: He must go. Mr. Milosevic, though, according to the Russians, has other ideas, insisting to them that, as head of Serbia's largest political party, his career isn't over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that he is a great danger. He's a small danger. He is now a little rat that can make little harm, but he's not the lion that he once was.

SADLER: But the opposition acknowledges that for as long as Mr. Milosevic remains in the country, Serbia's new democracy may be at risk.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SADLER: Regardless of what's happening on the streets of Belgrade and what some world leaders are saying about him, Mr. Milosevic seems to be going about his political business as usual, reportedly holding a cabinet session earlier here today, issuing a statement after that cabinet session which reads -- and I quote -- "violence and destruction were jeopardizing the interests of this country."

I'm Brent Sadler, CNN, reporting live from Belgrade.

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