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Mikheil Saakashvili (file photo) (epa)
TBILISI, March 19, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili today expressed solidarity with the Belarusian nation in what he called a "battle for true freedom," RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported.
Saakashvili spoke following the return home today of Georgian lawmakers detained by Belarusian forces on March 16 while trying to enter the country to monitor today's presidential election:
"This is our common battle," Saakashvili said. "The forces who detained our lawmakers were the forces of imperialism. This is a fight for freedom, a fight between good and evil. And we will all win this fight together."
The lawmakers were part of an election observer mission working with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Saakashvili rose to power after peaceful public protests against alleged election fraud ousted the ruling regime in the so-called Rose Revolution in 2003.
Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who is seeking a third term in today's vote, has accused foreign governments of plotting to destabilize the country by planning protests similar to those in Georgia.
(with material from AP)
Belarusian students studying at an EU-funded university in Vilnius, Lithuania
WATCHING AND WAITING: The European Union repeatedly urged Minsk to conduct a fair and democratic presidential election on March 19. The EU external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said in a statement today that the recent arrests of Belarusian opposition figures are "unacceptable" campaign violations. Ferrero-Waldner repeated an EU threat of "targeted sanctions" against top Belarusian officials if the elections are not free and fair. However, the EU will withhold final judgment until March 20, when the bloc's foreign ministers meet in Brussels....(more)
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Click on the image to view a dedicated page with news, analysis, and background information about the Belarusian presidential ballot.
MEET THE CANDIDATES: Read brief biographies of the four candidates in the March 19 election.
Click on the image to view RFE/RL's coverage of the election campaign in Belarusian and to listen to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service.