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Belarus: Parliament Says Compromise Possible; Lukashenka Rules It Out

Minsk, 19 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Defiant legislators in Belarus today said they were willing to compromise in their dispute with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, but Lukashenka said he would not step down. Vasily Novikov, deputy speaker of the Belarusian parliament, told reporters the crisis could be resolved today. He was speaking after a meeting today of the parliamentary presidium that groups the speaker, his deputies and leaders of parliamentary factions.

The presidium is due to meet Lukashenka later today in an effort to defuse the crisis over a referendum Lukashenka has called for this Sunday that would increase his powers and extend his term of office.

Yesterday, opposition in the parliament, which has steadfastly opposed the referendum, collected 80 deputies's signatures requesting the constitutional court begin impeachment procedures against the Belarus president. A court spokesman told Reuters today the court was preparing to hear the proposal but no ruling would be made today.

Deputies stayed in emergency session all night, fearing Lukashenka might disband them if they left the building. Some 1,500 opponents of the Belarus president rallied in front of the parliament building for a third day today to protest what they say are the president's increasingly authoritarian policies.

Lukashenka reacted angrily today to parliament's move to impeach him, saying he would not surrender power.

He said his plans to reintegrate with Russia and opposition to NATO eastward expansion had "displeased some Western politicians, who are financing opposition forces."

Lukashenka's closest aide, Vladimir Zametalin, said the president had "many options" and hinted he could dissolve parliament and the constitutional court if they impeach him.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Mikhail Chigir resigned when Lukashenka refused to cancel the referendum.