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Belarus/Russia: Polish Politicians React Coldly To Unity Proposal

Warsaw, 15 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Polish politicians from a wide spectrum of parties yesterday reacted coldly to a proposal for unification between next-door neighbor Belarus and Russia.

Former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski, now leader of the anti-communist Movement for Rebuilding Poland, said Russian President Boris Yeltsin's proposal to consider holding a referendum on the proposed unification is aimed at blocking NATO enlargement.

"Moscow is trying to prove that her threats are not just empty words," said Olszewski.

Longin Pastusiak, deputy chairman of the Sejm's foreign relations committee, and a member of the ruling post-Communist Democratic Left Alliance, agreed that the announcement was designed to forestall NATO expansion eastwards. But he said it was also an attempt by Yeltsin -- who is in hospital with double pneumonia -- to convince the world that he is still in control.

A politician from the Freedom Union, Piotr Nowina-Konopka, said he doubts Russians can afford to absorb Belarus with its devastated economy.