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The BBC's David Shukman
"Tonight everything hangs in the balance"
 real 56k

Jacky Rowland in Belgrade
"The people of Belgrade are on the move"
 real 28k

US President Bill Clinton
"The people of Serbia have made their opinion clear"
 real 56k

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
"Go, go now, go before any more lives are lost"
 real 56k

Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 18:55 GMT 19:55 UK
Chaos grips Belgrade
Opposition protesters moved on the parliament building
Opposition protesters moved on the parliament building
Opposition demonstrators demanding the removal of President Milosevic have laid siege to Belgrade, ransacking the parliament building and setting it on fire.

Half a million protesters took to the streets of the capital - part of a vast opposition rally to demand that Milosevic concedes defeat in the country's presidential elections.


Opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica greeted a crowd of hundreds of thousands of protesters with the words: "Good evening, liberated Serbia", and told them he was now Yugoslav president.

He has convened a session of the new Yugoslav parliament for 2100 (1900 GMT).

Mr Kostunica claimed that Mr Milosevic had fled his home.

There has been no confirmation of the Yugoslav president's whereabouts but his Socialist Party of Serbia has said it would fight back with all possible means.

The BBC's World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, said the situation was still very tense with the Belgrade crowd aware that tanks could still break up the protests.

Cars were set on fire outside the parliament
Cars were set on fire outside the parliament
"This is not yet a revolution which has been successful," he said. But he said there were extraordinary scenes in central Belgrade as protesters ransacked a perfume shop that belonged to Mr Milosevic's son.

Earlier, the state television building was set ablaze after being taken over by opposition protesters.

Journalists outside the television station said a number of police have taken off their helmets and joined the protesters.


We are living the last twitches of Milosevic's regime. Democracy has happened in Serbia

Vojislav Kostunica
Reports also said demonstrators attempted to storm the Interior Ministry.

US President Bill Clinton offered his support to the demonstrators who are "trying to get their country back".

However, he said it would be inappropriate for the US to intervene militarily in the crisis.

Following earlier reports of tanks taking to the streets, Robert Gordon, head of the UK mission in Belgrade, told the BBC: "I very much doubt if the army will get involved."

The BBC's Jacky Rowland, who has been in hiding in Belgrade, says there is "an air of victory and triumph" among the demonstrators.

Timeline
Wednesday 1800 GMT
Police fail to take over strikebound mine

Thursday 0600 GMT
Half a million people move on Belgrade

1400GMT
Protesters break through barricades

1500 GMT
Deadline for Milosevic's resignation passes and protesters storm the parliament

1630 GMT
State TV and radio station set ablaze
Throughout the day, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators had gathered in the Yugoslav capital to demand Mr Milosevic's resignation, but in a sign of defiance he ignored a deadline set for him by the opposition to resign.

The demonstrations are the biggest show of strength yet by the opposition which claims that its candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, won an outright victory in presidential elections last month.

Elsewhere in Serbia, demonstrators were reported to have broken into a state-run television station in the city of Leskovac.

The Serbian Beta news agency said a policeman was injured when the demonstrators forced their way into the building to demand the resignation of its head, and to call for objective reporting of mass protests in the city.

Convoys of demonstrators

The Belgrade protesters arrived in convoys of cars and lorries from around the country.

The parliament was set ablaze as protesters moved in
The parliament was set ablaze as protesters moved in
The early clashes came as news leaked out that the Constitutional Court had annulled the elections, amid fears that Mr Milosevic was using the court to buy time.

The demonstrators have been supported by thousands of miners striking in Serbia's largest coal mine at Kolubara. Police are now reported to have withdrawn from the mine complex.

"The fate of our people is in yours and our hands and we hope that we will greet our president Kostunica tonight", the miners said in a message to the Belgrade demonstrators.

Mr Milosevic is no stranger to protests. He weathered three months of demonstrations in 1997 before recognising an opposition victory in local elections.

Mr Milosevic remained firmly in charge because industrial workers and miners refused to join students and other opposition supporters in their revolt.

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04 Oct 00 | Europe
Immunity offer for Milosevic
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