Lisbon, 2 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Belarus president Alyaksandr Lukashenka told the European security summit today that he did not want foreign interference in Belarus' internal affairs and defended last month's controversial referendum.
Lukashenka said the referendum was in complete accordance with the Belarus constitution. Allegations that it was illegal were the inventions of foreign critics. He said its legality was proven by the fact that more than 70 percent of the people had voted in favor of the changes.
Lukashenka said foreign interference in Belarus' internal affairs would be unwarranted and counterproductive.
He said there was no question of an internal split in the country. Any problems would be solved in a democratic way.
Lukashenka's comments came only a few minutes after the referendum had been criticized as undemocratic by the outgoing chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Swiss foreign minister Flavio Cotti.
Cotti referred particularly to the report submitted by OSCE secretary-general, Giancarlo Aragona, after his visit to Belarus last week. Lukashenka told Aragona the constitutional crisis was over and he did not require the assistance of OSCE.
Cotti appealed to Lukashenka "to resolve the crisis in dialogue with all the political forces in his country and to co-operate constructively with the OSCE." He said OSCE was counting on the support of Russia to achieve this.
In other parts of his speech Lukashenka discussed his government's relationship with NATO and criticized its plans to expand eastwards.
He said Belarus considered it worthwhile to co-operate with NATO in the framework of its Partnership-for-Peace program. However it would be "shortsighted" to co-operate exclusively with NATO which was "about to divide Europe into two parts by a quick enlargement to the East." He said Belarus would suffer most from NATO's plans because confrontation would take place at its borders.
Lukashenka also discussed the 1990 Treaty limiting the number of conventional forces in Europe and claimed that Belarus had destroyed more tanks and aircraft than France, Britain and the United States combined. He also said he was proud that Belarus was now free of nuclear weapons. The remaining Russian nuclear missiles were withdrawn from Belarus last month.