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Belarus Opposition Candidate Holds Talks In France --> Milinkevich is considered the leading opposition candidate in the March presidential poll (epa) 10 January 2006 -- The united opposition's candidate in Belarus's presidential election campaign has held talks with France's foreign minister in Paris.

Alyaksandr Milinkevich met on 9 Januray with Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.

Ahead of the meeting, France's Foreign Ministry said Douste-Blazy and Milinkevich were expected to discuss human rights and political freedoms in Belarus.

French spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei described the human rights situation in Belarus as worsening, with increased repression of the opposition press, in the run-up to the 19 March presidential poll, in which President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is seeking a third term.

On 9 January in Belarus, Alyaksandr Voytovich, who had been running as an independent candidate, announced he was dropping out of the presidential race because he views it as illegitimate.

The remaining candidates each need to gather 100,000 signatures of support from eligible voters in order to be officially added to the ballot.


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