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Breaking News

Serbian State Television Declares Opposition Leader President- Elect

Aired October 5, 2000 - 3:24 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: There are historic developments unfolding in Yugoslavia right now. We want to go back to our Belgrade Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci, who has been covering all of these dramatic developments.

Alessio, we have heard you tell our viewers only a few minutes ago that Yugoslavia's state run news agency is now referring to the opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica as the president-elect of Yugoslavia. Tell us precisely what that may mean.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN BELGRADE BUREAU CHIEF: Wolf, the fact that the state agency, the Tanjug, is reporting now, is referring to Vojislav Kostunica as the president-elect of Yugoslavia, it means that it is a major institution in this country that is now siding with the opposition. We have seen earlier today opposition supporters taking over the state television here and was ran off the air, it went off the air for several hours,

And I can actually tell you that within the last 15 seconds, and you can hear the people cheering behind me, state television is back on the air. They are referring it to New State Television, there's an anchor who is reading a statement. I'm not able to hear it. However they're referring this to New State TV. It is a major development, here. The opposition now has a major opportunity here to broadcast its version of the story here in Belgrade throughout the country.

Also this is the result, of course, of a takeover from the opposition supporters of state television. What happened at Tanjug, we understand that the Tanjug decided on its on to side for the opposition. They did not wait for demonstrators to take over the building. Tanjug briefly issuing a statement earlier today that they were going to start reporting the news as it happens. And they also said, referring to Vojislav Kostunica as the president-elect.

And so these are two major developments, of course, because now the opposition has the -- basically the two main ways of communicating with the rest of the country, through Tanjug and through state television. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Alessio, until right now, until this moment, for the last several hours as these demonstrators have gathered throughout Belgrade taking over the parliament, the state-run television has been silent on this entire matter until right now. Is that correct? VINCI: That is correct. About four or five hours ago the television building in downtown Belgrade was stormed by protesters, and it was set on fire. However, the main transmitter is outside the city center. It is around about a few kilometers outside the city center, and the opposition supporters actually walked all the way up there and tried to take control of that TV station. In the meantime, the signal was, went to black, and within the last few minutes it went back on the air. The first report a slate up saying New Television, Belgrade, the new television of Serbia is about to go on the air. Be patient.

What is happening now is Nebojsa Covic, the former Belgrade mayor and one of the leaders of the opposition, is addressing the viewers who are able now to -- are able now to be able to watch the program of Serbian television.

So, again, this is now the beginning of Serbian Television Broadcasting from the side of the opposition, transmitting throughout Serbia, we understand now at this point, news that the situation here in Belgrade has dramatically changed. The people have taken over here in Belgrade. The people are celebrating what is certainly -- will go down through history as the first major victory of the people over President Milosevic.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Alessio, just to put all of this into some sort of perspective, the police as of right now still have not opened up fire, the military still is not engaged in hostilities against these thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on the streets of Belgrade. Is that right?

VINCI: That is correct, Wolf. At this time in the streets of Belgrade, hundreds of thousands of people, no police, no army. Opposition leaders are telling us that the police system has completely collapsed, that there are policemen who went to the opposition headquarters and said, you know, we are on your side, we don't want to be part of this.

What is now the major development that the opposition is waiting for is a reaction from the army. They are asking the army to issue a statement that refers to the election victory of Vojislav Kostunica, the opposition leader. Once the army issues that statement, the opposition leaders are confident that that will be the end of it.

At this point, what we can tell you is that we have seen no reaction from the army. We have certainly seen the police not intervening in trying to prevent demonstrators from trying to take over the building. We have seen the state news agency, Tanjug, siding with the opposition. And we have seen the Serbian Television state television being taken over by the opposition.

So the opposition at this point controlling most of the -- actually I would say at this point, all of the broadcast networks here in this country because they also took over several TV stations here in Belgrade. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, Alessio Vinci, our Belgrade Bureau Chief reporting historic developments, a very fluid situation unfolding right now in Yugoslavia. And our continuing coverage of this breaking news story will resume right after this.

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