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Belarusians Protest Presidential Referendum

Has Lukashenka finally gone too far? (file photo) 10 October 2004 -- (NCA) -- Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in the Belarusian capital today to protest a nationwide referendum called by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to extend his rule.

Reports say about 300 people attended the demonstration and that police arrested at least five protesters.

Anatoly Lebedko, leader of the opposition United Civil Party, told the crowd that Lukashenka wants to govern for life, a scenario he said "deprives Belarus of its future as a European nation."

Lukashenka's critics accuse authorities of barring dozens of opposition candidates from running in the October 17 parliamentary elections.

A referendum that day will also ask voters whether Lukashenka should be allowed to run again for president and whether they support striking the current two-term limit from the constitution.