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Belarus: Envoys Temporarily Halt Minsk Walk-Out Plans

Minsk, 10 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Foreign ambassadors in Minsk have temporarily halted plans for a mass diplomatic walk-out, after the Belarusian foreign ministry said the closure of the capital's largest diplomatic compound will be delayed for a further week.

Spokesman Sergei Smolanovsky said President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has ordered the delay in hope that a solution can be found to the dispute. Belarus authorities say the ambassadors must vacate the diplomatic compound to allow for urgent repairs.

But foreign governments say the eviction order is a gross violation of international law, under which ambassadors' residences are considered the territory of the diplomat's government.

France, Germany, the United States, and Britain all said today that they will keep their ambassadors in Minsk for the time being. But all countries said that if a mutually acceptable solution is not found within the next week, the ambassadors will be recalled.

Also in Minsk today, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said that Moscow is satisfied with the pace of integration between the two neighboring countries.

Kirienko was speaking in the capital at the opening of a session of the Executive Committee of the Russia-Belarus Union, set up last year.

Kirienko met earlier today with Lukashenka. Kirienko had been expected to raise with Lukashenka the issue of Belarus' energy debt to Russia estimated at some $430 million.