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Belarus: People Want Change, Says OSCE Official

Vienna, 3 November 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A senior official of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, says he believes a significant proportion of the people of Belarus want a change in their political and economic situation. He says his organization should work to bring about this change.

Speaking to the OSCE permanent council in Vienna yesterday, the head of the organization's advisory mission in Belarus, Hans-Georg Wieck, said last month's parliamentary elections in Belarus were not democratic.

But he said the desire for change apparent in Belarus should encourage the OSCE to press for more democratic balloting in the presidential elections due next year. The Belarus opposition is expected to nominate candidates to challenge President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Wieck's comments were made in a report on the October parliamentary voting, which the OSCE had earlier criticized as undemocratic -- although it did recognize progress in a few areas. Wieck said the conditions in which the elections were held fell short of the minimum requirements for free, fair and accountable elections.

In an interview with our correspondent in Vienna, Wieck said the OSCE should work for a revision of the Belarus electoral code before the presidential elections and initiate new talks with the authorities on the basis of the experience gained in the parliamentary elections. He said the OSCE and its experts should assist Belarus in enhancing the role of parliament and its functions.

Wieck said the OSCE, through its office in Minsk, will also press for progress on such issues as access of opposition parties to the mass media, and try to construct an election-monitoring network for the presidential elections.

Wieck also told RFE/RL he hoped what he called the current "difficult situation" of non-governmental organizations in Belarus could be eased, particularly the cumbersome process of registration for NGOs.

Wieck said the OSCE's parliamentary assembly was studying the question of its relations with the Belarus parliament, which was appointed by Lukashenka four years ago. He said the assembly would issue a report later.

Wieck noted that the European Parliament had indicated that more needed to be done by the Belarus parliament before relations could be normalized.