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Belarus: U.S. Sees No Legal Basis For Hancar's Dismissal

Washington, 18 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - The United States says there is no legal basis for Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka's dismissal of Viktor Hancar, chairman of the Central Electoral Commission.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said Friday that the constitution of Belarus gives the authority to fire or hire the head of the electoral commission exclusively to the parliament.

She said: "There appears to be no legal basis for president Lukashenka's action."

She said the United States calls on the executive branch to respect the decisions of the judiciary.

Lukashenka Thursday fired Hancar after the electoral chief said he would refuse to validate the results of a constitutional referendum now under way in Belarus because of gross irregularities.

Police physically removed Hancar from his office Friday and outraged lawmakers appealed to the international community for help against what they said is "creeping dictatorship."

In a press statement prepared before the appeal, the U.S. State Department called on Lukashenka and the parliament to work together.

The spokeswoman said the United States urges them to cooperate within the context of the existing constitution.

The referendum asks voters to approve far-reaching constitutional changes that would expand the powers of the presidency and extend Lukashenka's term in office.