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PACE Votes To Restore 'Special Guest' Status For Belarus

PARIS -- The Political Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has recommended restoring the "special guest" status for Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

A final decision on the issue will be made at PACE's next meeting in Paris in June.

PACE's special guest status was given to Belarus in 1993 but was withdrawn in 1996 after President Alyaksandr Lukashenka held a referendum that increased presidential powers that PACE deemed undemocratic.

The special guest status will allow Belarusian parliamentarians to take part in some PACE activities.

Vintsuk Vyachorka, deputy leader of the opposition Popular Front of Belarus, told RFE/RL that the decision to restore special guest status to Minsk is a mistake and contradicts the basic principles of the Council of Europe.

He said the Belarusian leadership should first have to prove its readiness by adhering to PACE criteria.