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Yugoslav Opposition Controls State TV, Parliament in Belgrade; 'Milosevic: Portrait of a Tyrant' Author Discusses Unfolding EventsAired October 5, 2000 - 3:49 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're continuing coverage of the dramatic developments unfolding in Yugoslavia. Our sister news organization CNN International is covering that. We want to break in and listen to what CNN International is now reporting.
RIZ KHAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: ... We join Louise Branson again in Washington, D.C.. She's the author of "Milosevic: Portrait of a Tyrant."
Let's get a question to you straight away from the viewer here, Louise, from Tim in Germany.
Tim, what would you like to ask?
CALLER: Hello, I just want to find out -- point out what abilities do you think about the opposition of parties in former Yugoslavia?
LOUISE BRANSON, AUTHOR, "MILOSEVIC: PORTRAIT OF A TYRANT": Well, the...
BRANSON: The stability or the abilities.
KHAN: Ability, OK. That's what it was. That what it was: ability.
BRANSON: The abilities. Well, I think both can be addressed. But, you know, the stability is -- I think what's very important is that, until you had Mr. Kostunica standing in these presidential elections, Yugoslavia's opposition was extremely fractured.
And this is what Milosevic had counted on in the elections: that there would be no one opponent standing against him. And what Mr. Kostunica's appeal to -- to the Serbian people has been, has been that, unlike other opposition leaders, he is not being financed by the United States and other Western countries. And he has taken a fairly anti-American stand and a pro-Serbians -- some would say nationalists. He prefers patriotic stand.
Whether he can then, after Milosevic -- if he does go -- leaves power, unite the very fractured opposition leaders in a country which -- in which the institutions and the people have been brought to their knees in every way imaginable is a big question. And I think Mr. Kostunica is already appealing to the West and for help -- for outside help to help him in this very difficult period, which Mr. Coraz (ph), the opposition leader, called a grace period which he felt should be given.
You know, I think this is going to be -- this is going to be equally crucial if Milosevic leaves power.
KHAN: Now, if Mr. Kostunica is the way you described him, the way your described his background, is it going to be a slow bridge- building process for the West? Or is the West ready to just dive in and see a complete change there in Yugoslavia?
BRANSON: Well, from what I have heard Mr. Kostunica saying, he's looking very much towards Western Europe and particularly France and other countries as leading the way for Serbia. And this is probably important. France, at the moment, leads the European Union.
But Jacques Chirac, the French president, has proposed a grand Balkans summit, in which all the questions that remain from the four wars that Mr. Milosevic has instigated over the past decade will be put back on the table, even going down to borders and so on. And I think that you can already see him working towards this end, and may be looking toward Europeans, who perhaps he feels understand and the region better.
KHAN: Let me ask you then: What kind of support are the opposition and the protesters looking for right now then from Western countries? Is it enough just to have Western leaders stand up and say, "We want Mr. Milosevic to step down"?
BRANSON: I think what the opposition and the demonstrators are looking for now is to have Mr. Milosevic out, and to have a return to some kind of sane and normal life. As you heard Mr. Coraz say, they have become so poor. So many of them are so hungry. Their life is not a normal life. Every day is a struggle for existence.
And I think they're really not looking -- at this point, most people in Serbia -- for anything but to get that bridge of getting Milosevic out. I think, after that, they would like to really see some help in rebuilding their institutions and in having some sort of economic links and so on. I don't think they like the idea, though, of particularly the United States, as they see it, meddling in their affairs.
I think they would like to be helped to be -- to stand on their own feet. But it is going to require quite a bit of assistance. And, in fact, the United States and the European Union have promised that the crippling sanctions that were imposed would be lifted if Milosevic goes from power. And I think, you know, that is a first very important step.
KHAN: Now, what -- where does this leave the staunch supporters of Slobodan Milosevic: his wife, for example? What is your assessment of her? Some said she was the powerhouse. BRANSON: Absolutely. I think that they are very much partners in power, sort of Balkans' Nicholas and Alexandria (ph). And she, at times in the past, have said -- has said that he would not have got where he is without her. She is a hard-line communist. Her party, the Yugoslav left, it's a hard-line communist party, shares power with his Socialist.
But as Serbs know, her party is basically the party which runs the businesses and the economy, like the corporate wing of the -- of the government. And a lot of people surrounding her, in particular, are involved in smuggling and in black marketeering. And so, you know, this is also an important element in what has brought the demonstrators out.
Now, a lot of insiders seem to believe that it is she who has shielded...
(INTERRUPTED BY COVERAGE OF A LIVE EVENT)
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