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Yugoslav Revolution: President Kostunica Taking Steps to Consolidate Power

Aired October 9, 2000 - 2:22 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: Now to Yugoslavia, where its new president, Vojislav Kostunica, faces his first major challenge in office: consolidating power. A critical step is being debated right now by the Serbian parliament. On the table, an agreement to, in principle, suspend the government and hold new elections.

Now, joining us by phone, our Belgrade bureau chief Alessio Vinci.

Alessio, what does it all mean?

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN BELGRADE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Lou, to run Yugoslavia, President Vojislav Kostunica and his allies have to take over control of the government and the parliament of Serbia, which is the dominant republic in the Yugoslav federation. It is the Serbian government which controls the police, transportation, even many banks here. So, key allies of Kostunica are pressuring Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and the Serb assembly to call for early elections, arguing that the last federal elections and recent events in Belgrade have shifted the balance of power.

Zoran Djindjic, a key ally of President Kostunica, said the elections are a done deal and they will take place on December 17th or the 24th, but it is up to the Serbian president, Milutinovic, to call them. Djindjic also says a new panel of experts is ready to take over the Serbian government as early as Tuesday. If the Serbian government, controlled by former president Milosevic's allies were to remain in power, it would be in a position to block Kostunica's programs of reforms. Without waiting for the entire Serb government to resign, the Serbian interior minister stepped down as did the federal prime minister Momir Bulatovic, paving the way for Mr. Kostunica to begin asserting control on all levels of power across Yugoslavia.

All this delivers a serious blow to former president Milosevic's efforts to keep a foothold in politics using his influence over the Serbian government. Meanwhile, students marched on President Milosevic's home today. Thousands of them did that. For years demonstrators attempting to go there were met with stiff riot police resistance. And this time only regular policeman were on hand. It was a small but symbolic victory for the students and another reminder here that times have really changed -- Lou. WATERS: All right, Alessio Vinci in Belgrade.

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