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Belarus: Council Of Europe's Assembly Considering Suspension

Strasbourg, 8 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly is considering suspending Belarus' association with the organization because of what it considers President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's undemocratic referendum in November.

The Parliamentary Assembly's Executive Board is due to meet in Paris Monday to decide on Belarus' future status in the 40-nation Council of Europe.

Council officials tell our correspondent that the Board is likely to suspend Belarus' Special Guest Status at the Assembly for an initial six-month period. The status allows its parliamentarians to participate in the assembly's work without voting rights.

The 40-member Executive Board acts on behalf of the entire assembly when it is not in session. The full assembly is due to meet in Strasbourg for a week-long session at the end of the month.

Council officials say that the Assembly's Political Committee recommended suspending Belarus at a meeting last month. Another Assembly committee, one dealing with relations with non-member states, must submit its view before the Executive Board can act.

The Assembly's President, Leni Fischer of Germany, called Lukashenka's referendum "an illegal act" soon after it took place. She said the way in which the new parliament had been formed deprived Belarus of any democratic legitimacy.

A Parliamentary Assembly delegation in Minsk had earlier said that the referendum violated democratic standards and jeopardized the future of democratic reform in Belarus.

Belarus applied for full membership in the Council almost four years ago. It had been granted Guest Status the year before.

The Council, which promotes democratic values and human rights, now has 16 members from Central and Eastern Europe.