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Belarus: Western Nations Warned Against Isolating The Republic

Minsk, 28 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Belarus warned Western nations today that moves to isolate the republic following President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's controversial referendum victory would not work. Deputy foreign minister Mikhail Khvosotv said that European governments would find moves to isolate the country to be counterproductive.

He said it would be better to keep up a dialogue with Belarus' newly-created national assembly to understand it.

Lukashenka, who gained sweeping new powers as a result of last Sunday's referendum, set up the assembly filled with deputies loyal to him on Tuesday.

The majority of deputies who support the president have voted to dissolve the current parliament.

The opposition has been expecting a move to clear them from the Parliament building.

A report from Minsk today said police have barred opposition deputies from entering the main chamber of the Parliament building.

Reuter quotes opposition deputy Stanislav Bogdankevich as saying that deputies are only being allowed inside to collect and remove their belongings.

Bogdankevich said the police presence marks the setting up of a "junta" in Belarus. He vowed the opposition would not leave the building, but would wait there until the Belarusian people "wake up."

He said the results of the constitutional referendum held by Lukashenka were falsified. In that referendum Lukashenka gained sweeping powers for himself and a longer term in office. The opposition, as well as many foreign organizations, say the voting was neither free nor fair, and fell below democratic norms.

Yesterday, the last Soviet-era nuclear missiles in Belarus were handed over to Russia in a ceremony attended by senior Belarusian officials and Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov.

Rodionov solemnly declared that a "new non-nuclear state has appeared on the world map," as the missiles left on a Russia-bound train to the strains of a military march.