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World: Council Of Europe To Hear Both Views Of Belarus President

Strasbourg, 13 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has invited both opponents and supporters of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to a hearing this month in Strasbourg. Council officials tell our correspondent that the Assembly's Political Committee invited Syamon Sharetski, President of the democratically elected Belarus Parliament dissolved by Lukashenka in November, to send a delegation of four opposition leaders to the Strasbourg hearing. Sharetski, himself, is an outspoken opponent of the President.

The officials said the Committee has also invited Yuri Malumau to address the hearing, as part of a delegation he was asked to bring. Malumau, a former deputy President of the dissolved Parliament, is a member of the new Parliament Lukashenka appointed after the dissolution. He is known as a vigorous supporter of Lukashenka and of the Belarus-Russia union.

The officials said neither Sharetski nor Malumau had yet replied to the invitations.

The hearing will take place on June 24 (1900), the second day of the Assembly's week-long Summer session. It will be held behind closed doors, open only to the two invitees, members of the Political Committee and other members of the Assembly, and other Council of Europe officials.

In January, the Parliamentary Assembly suspended indefinitely Belarus' Special Guest Status at the body, which had allowed the country's parliamentarians to participate in Assembly work without voting rights. At the time, Assembly President Leni Fischer of Germany severely criticized Lukashenka's referendum as well as the dissolution of the old parliament as undemocratic.