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Breaking News

Pentagon Holds Briefing on Yugoslavia Unrest

Aired October 5, 2000 - 2:20 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: And now back to Belgrade, Yugoslavia. We are there live today. Alessio Vinci, our Belgrade bureau chief, is there live, doing a yeoman's duty on this rather fluid and continually evolving story. Where are we at now, Alessio?

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, at this point, the situation in the streets of Belgrade certainly a lot calmer than it was a few hours ago when hundreds of demonstrators stormed, first the parliament building, and then the TV tower. Demonstrators at this point are milling around, trying to stay calm, the opposition leaders trying to keep the situation under control.

Earlier today, as those pictures suggest, hundreds of protesters stormed the parliament building. They broke through police lines which offered, who offered very little resistance here. This is one of the major surprises in this day that not very the fact that demonstrators tried to break through the police line, but the fact that police did not intervene.

We are here today standing, as these people today are standing in the streets celebrating, it is because the police and the security services have so far refrained of intervening. After several years of covering demonstrations here, it is the first time that I see so little intervention by the police.

Back to you, Lou.

WATERS: OK, Alessio Vinci in Belgrade.

At the Pentagon now, a briefing on developments in Belgrade. Here is the Pentagon spokesman.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

KEN BACON, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: ... U.S. troops in Bosnia. And, I mean, typically when there's a swap out of units, there's a temporary increase, but I don't think that -- I mean, 4,600 is about in line with what we've had over there for some time.

QUESTION: And can we get -- I don't know, maybe you could take this -- but could we just get a brief rundown of U.S. military forces in the region, just so we have that to refer to as the days ahead go by? BACON: Well, yes, without garbling the numbers myself, we'll get it for you, but there're under -- somewhat under 6,000, I believe in Kosovo, about 4,600 in Bosnia. I don't know how many ships exactly are in the George Washington battle group, but there are usually 4,000 to 5,000 people on a carrier and then several other ships, so there are several thousand people in the George Washington battle group in Corfu right now. And then we probably have some number, maybe 1,000 or less, in Macedonia. And there are small numbers in Croatia and other places -- Sarajevo -- but not large numbers.

QUESTION: And will the port call or liberty visit for the George Washington be cut short in any way because of developments?

BACON: There's no plan to do that.

QUESTION: And under the current plan, when would the GW go back out into the Adriatic?

BACON: Well, I think the port call began today or yesterday and lasts for several days. I don't have the exact date. Probably through the weekend. It's a holiday weekend, obviously, with Columbus Day on Monday.

QUESTION: Is there an ARG in the Adriatic?

BACON: I don't believe there is one now in the Adriatic. We'll check on that.

QUESTION: Do you have an assessment of how much the Yugoslav military and the police force has been rebuilt or reconstituted since the end of the bombing a year and a quarter ago? Is there some either anecdotal or statistical way you can describe (OFF-MIKE) match together it is?

BACON: No. I don't have a good handle on that. It's something we can get for you, obviously. You know they lost flight -- air defense capability, some MiGs, a lot of armor and other rolling equipment, but I -- and there is an economic embargo against Yugoslavia, so I assume that it's been difficult for them to replace lost equipment.

QUESTION: But the size of the force has not diminished during this year-long period where it's been hard for them to pay for it, to the best of your knowledge?

BACON: No, I'm not aware that there's been any rollback -- significant rollback on the size of the force.

QUESTION: Does the United States have a good idea of the whereabouts of Slobodan Milosevic? And are there any indications that either he or members of his family are attempting to leave the country or leave Belgrade?

BACON: Well, there certainly are a lot of rumors. But we have nothing to confirm that anybody has left at this stage. I'm referring to President Milosevic and to his wife. As far as we know, Milosevic is still in Belgrade.

QUESTION: And I know this is probably better suited to the State Department, but they're not briefing today, so can you tell us anything about whether the United States has had any contact with Russia about somehow facilitating President Milosevic's departure...

BACON: That is a good State Department question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

WATERS: A quick Pentagon briefing revolving around question of Serbian troops' strength and the deployment of U.S. troops in the Balkans. And rumors abound about the whereabouts of Slobodan Milosevic and his wife. But, as the Pentagon's spokesman said, as far as we know, Milosevic is still in Moscow, as reporters continue to ask the question: Why haven't we seen or heard from Slobodan Milosevic as this tumultuous demonstration of more than 100,000 people goes on in the streets of Belgrade tonight?

The opposition candidate has spoken to the crowd, and his aides are now trying to secure a commitment from the army to join the opposition to force Slobodan Milosevic from power.

There is also an effort to take over the television studio in Belgrade, and force the state television system back on the air, which was knocked off earlier after the television studios were burned.

So, we are continuing to follow developments. As soon as we know more, we will pass if along to you.

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