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Lukashenka Says Talks On Belarusian-Russian Union Deadlocked

Minsk, 24 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said today that talks with Russia on plans to create a union state have reached a deadlock. Russia and Belarus signed an initial agreement on a "union state" in 1996 but few concrete details have been worked out.

At a news conference today, Lukashenka said the moment has been reached when the two sides are "unable to take a step forward."

He said the Russian leadership wants to review the agreement but that he will not agree to this because "this would mean my political death."

Lukashenka also complained about a lack of progress in cooperation in the oil and gas industry.

Lukashenka has offered Russia's gas giant Gazprom a controlling stake in Belarus's state gas company, Beltransgaz. But today he reiterated that he will not sell the company at an unfair price.

He also said Belarus is considering alternatives to Russian fuel, and said one option is gas from Turkmenistan.