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Belarus: Council Of Europe 'Seriously Concerned,' Says Fischer

Minsk, 16 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's plans to increase his own powers may divide the country, says German parliamentarian Leni Fischer, chairwoman of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.

Fischer made the comments in the Belarus capital during a two-day visit to discuss Minsk's application to join the 39-nation body which promotes democracy and human rights.

Today, Fischer met Prime Minister Mikhail Chighir, Constitutional Court president Valery Tshihinya, Parliamentary Speaker Semyon Sharetsky and other officials, including president chief-of-staff Mikhail Myasnikovich.

Lukashenka, who met today in Moscow with Russian president Boris Yeltsin, had refused to meet Fischer.

Reuters news agency reports that during her address to parliament, Fischer said the Council of Europe is "seriously concerned" over Belarus's constitutional crisis. Fischer called on the Belarus leadership to find a compromise, aimed at "avoiding confusing and splitting the nation."

Parliament and the president are locked in a bitter dispute over a referendum to amend the constitution. Lukashenka's proposed referendum seeks to greatly enhance his powers. A referendum proposed by Parliament seeks to eliminate the presidency.

Fischer is scheduled to travel to Moscow this evening for a visit organized by Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council.

A Council of Europe statement issued today says she will meet, among others, with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and members of both houses of the Russian parliament.

The statement says the meetings will focus on Russia's role in the Council of Europe, its responsibilities in human rights matters and its progress in implementing democratic reform.