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Duma Speaker Says Referendums On Russia-Belarus Union Constitution Near

Boris Gryzlov (file photo) (CTK) MOSCOW, 19 January 2006 - - The speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, says he believes Russia and Belarus could organize parallel referendums on a union state constitution later this year.

Addressing reporters in Moscow today, Boris Gryzlov said work on a union state constitution was going on as scheduled.

Also today, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a statement the constitution issue would top the agenda of the upcoming session of the Higher State Council of the Russia-Belarus Union State, which will take place in S t. Petersburg on 24 January.

Russia and Belarus in 1996 created a union state, which exists mostly on paper. There are at least nine draft versions of the union state constitution.

(RIA Novosti, Belarusian ForMin website, RFE/RL )