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Yugoslavia: Opposition Protesters Seize TV and Radio Facilities, Demand Milosevic Step DownAired October 5, 2000 - 2:59 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: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
In the news, it's been a clearly historic day in Yugoslavia. Pro-opposition protesters seized parliament and took state-run radio and television facilities. It happened after tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Belgrade, demanding that President Milosevic step down.
They met with little resistance from police. In fact, some police apparently left their posts and joined the opposition. At any rate, CNN Belgrade bureau chief Alessio Vinci tells us police left the area, leaving parliament under opposition control.
The man who the opposition says won the September 24 presidential election spoke to the huge crowd of demonstrators. Vojislav Kostunica called for calm and told supporters President Milosevic -- quote -- "cannot fight the people's will." Mr. Milosevic, who has ruled Yugoslavia for the past 13 years, has been silent so far. His whereabouts are not known.
Joining me now here in Washington is the national security adviser to President Clinton, Samuel Berger. He joins us from the North Lawn of the White House.
Mr. Berger, tell us, first of all, what is the Clinton administration, the U.S. government, doing at this point, given the dramatic scenes we are seeing on the streets of Belgrade?
SAMUEL BERGER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, we are following these events very carefully, very closely. We are in contact with our European allies. And we are giving full support to the people of Serbia. They have spoken at the ballot box. They are now, rather dramatically and extraordinarily, speaking on the streets of Belgrade. And I think it will be very difficult for their will to be thwarted.
BLITZER: What do you want President Milosevic to do? Do you want him simply to step down? Do you want to leave the country? What are you trying to achieve?
BERGER: I think it is time for Mr. Milosevic to relinquish power and to step down. I'm not going to advise him as to what he does. But I think he has to listen to the people of Serbia. This is -- the will of the people now is unmistakable. They spoke at that ballot box. We're seeing these extraordinary scenes in Belgrade and around the country, where there are strikes.
We are seeing the pillars of his power begin to unravel. And I find it very difficult to see how he can reconstitute that power. So, in the interests of a peaceful transition to democracy, I hope that Mr. Milosevic will step aside.
BLITZER: We heard earlier today from my Milan Panic, a former prime minister of Yugoslavia. He said on CNN that he would hope that the U.S. and others would not necessarily force President Milosevic to go through an international war crimes tribunal -- he is an internationally indicted war criminal at this point -- but yet allow him to get free passage to a safe haven in a third country in order to avoid the bloodshed that could erupt from a civil war.
Is that a good idea?
BERGER: Well, the fact is, of course, he has been indicted by the war crimes tribunal. And he should be accountable for what he did over the last 10 years. But the issue immediately at hand is for him to step aside and get out of the way of the will of his people.
BLITZER: One final question, Mr. Berger: What about Russia? Are you in touch with President Putin -- Vladimir Putin -- trying to get the Russians to use their influence to convince President Milosevic to step down?
BERGER: We've had quite frequent contact, President Clinton, President Putin, Secretary Albright, to Foreign Minister Ivanov. There will be further contacts today. They are on their way back from India, where President Putin has been. But we have encouraged the Russians to speak clearly now on behalf of the Serbian people and add their voice to the voice of the international community and the people of Serbia to declare that the people have spoken.
BLITZER: Samuel Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser, thank you so much for joining us today.
BERGER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll have much more later coming up on the uprising in Belgrade. We'll talk to the former State Department spokesman, James Rubin. That's at 3:30 p.m. Eastern, 12:30 p.m. Pacific.
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