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Belarus: Council Of Europe Assembly President Calls New Constitution 'Illegal'

Strasbourg, 29 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - The president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly says that yesterday's signing of a new Belarus constitution by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is "an illegal act."

President Leni Fischer of Germany says the way in which Lukashenka has this week formed a new Parliament deprives it of any democratic legitimacy.

Lukashenka, she says, "is moving his country away from the European family of democratic nations and thereby preventing it from becoming a member of the Council of Europe."

Fischer made her remarks in a statement issued late yesterday at the Council's headquarters in Strasbourg.

Two days ago, a Parliamentary Assembly delegation in Minsk said that Sunday's referendum on the constitution violated democratic standards and jeopardized the future of democratic reform in Belarus.

Belarus applied for membership in the Council more than three years ago. The 40-nation organization, which monitors democratic and human rights practices on the continent, now has 16 members from Central and Eastern Europe.