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Belarus: U.S., Russia And Ukraine Concerned About Situation

Washington, 19 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - The U.S. State Department says the situation in Belarus is now critical and is eroding the political system.

State Department spokesman Glyn Davies said yesterday that "the United States believes this constitutes a crisis that is causing damage to the political system and the political process."

He was commenting on latest events in Minsk, following police action against demonstrators protesting President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's policies, and the resignation of Prime Minister Mikhail Chigir.

Davies reiterated that the United States is deeply concerned and urges the executive branch in Minsk to work with the parliament. He said Lukashenka has no constitutional basis for the actions he has taken against parliament.

The U.S. State Department made a similar statement last week and said it has conveyed its concern clearly to the government in Minsk.

Meanwhile in Russia, State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov says the lower house of the Russian parliament will discuss the situation in Belarus in its session tomorrow.

Seleznyov said that yesterday's resignation of Belarus' Prime Minister Mikhail Chigir would "possibly indicate" to Lukashenka that the referendum aimed at extending him powers, planned for Sunday, should be put off.

However, Seleznyov said the Duma would not welcome a development of the situation, implying Lukashenka's possible impeachment is not favored by Russian lawmakers.

Seleznyov said representative of all the Duma factions are represented in a special commission, set up to prepare a draft for a Duma resolution on the issue.

Lukashenka addressed the Duma in Moscow last week, looking for support in the communist-nationalist-dominated lower house of the Russian parliament. Some 70 Russian lawmakers, including members of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia faction, walked out of the Duma to protest Lukashenka's planned referendum on extending his term in office until 2001 and enlarging his already extensive powers.

At the Kremlin, Russian President Boris Yeltsin today called for compromise and common sense in neighboring Belarus and said he is concerned about rising tension there.

Kremlin press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky said Yeltsin had discussed Belarus at a 90-minute meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin earlier today.

He said Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin "expressed alarm about rising tension in Belarus." He said they also expressed the hope that "common sense and the art of political compromise will replace the ambitions and confrontations among politicians."

(Today's meeting with Chernomyrdin was Yeltsin's first long working meeting since his multiple heart bypass operation two weeks ago. Russian ORT public television announced that it would show pictures of the meeting later today. Yeltsin has not been seen on television since the operation.)

In Ukraine, the Parliament today adopted a resolution expressing "deep concern" about rising tension in neighboring Belarus over President Lukashenka's plans to hold the referendum on Sunday intended to extend his powers.

Today's resolution, passed after a brief debate, refers to the worsening conflict between different branches of authority in Belarus but avoids singling out one side for blame.

In the Ukrainian lawmakers' words: "We are strictly following the norms of non-interference in internal affairs but are also strictly following the norms of parliamentary (conduct)."

The Ukranian parliamentary resolution calls on government and parliamentary officials in Belarus to show mutual understanding and abide by the constitution to maintain democracy and security in the region".

The Ukrainian Parliament says it is certain that what it terms the "fraternal Belarusian people" will find a constitutional way out of their internal problems.

Ukraine's government has kept silent on the Belarus conflict, but parliamentary speaker Oleksander Moroz said yesterday he is in continuous contact with his outspoken Belarusian counterpart Semyon Sharetsky, who opposes Lukashenka's drive to expand presidential power