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Wednesday, 1 August, 2001, 00:36 GMT 01:36 UK
Belarus leader accuses OSCE
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, left, and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
Lukashenko: Won't sit in a bunker like Milosevic
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has accused the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of plotting to undermine his government.

The accusation came after Western officials had expressed concern that Belarus's national elections, scheduled for 9 September, will not be free or fair.

Delaying our arrival only serves to erode both domestic and international confidence in the election

Gerard Stoudmann
OSCE official
Mr Lukashenko on Tuesday called OSCE official Hans-Georg Wick "the chief of the headquarters of the entire Belarusian opposition".

The OSCE, of which Belarus is a member, hoped to send five observers to the former Soviet state on Wednesday, to start monitoring the candidate registration process and the election campaign.

But their entry was delayed by the Belarus government.

A government spokesman was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying there were problems with the OSCE's paperwork, but he added that an invitation to the observers would be issued soon.

"Every day our arrival is delayed reduces our ability to conduct the kind of professional observation we undertake in OSCE countries," said Gerard Stoudmann, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, in a statement.

"Delaying our arrival only serves to erode both domestic and international confidence in the election," he added.

'No Kostunica'

President Lukashenko accused the OSCE observers of planning a disinformation campaign.

He said they planned to interview voters and pass the information on to foreign journalists, who would "directly send this allegedly correct information to all channels."

"At the beginning of the official count, there will be declared some 'Belarusian Kostunica'," he said, referring to Vojislav Kostunica, who won the Yugoslav elections last year, but whose victory was recognised only after a popular uprising.

Then, the following day, "the victory of Lukashenko will be declared... but not agreeing with this, 10,000 people will gather at the presidential residence and attack it," he said.

"[But] there will be no Kostunica... I will defend myself and won't sit things out in a bunker like [ousted Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic," he was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

Mr Lukashenko predicted he would receive 90% of the votes.

But Belarus's opposition parties have united behind a single candidate, in the hope to muster enough support to topple him.

See also:

22 Jun 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Belarus stuck in a timewarp
07 Jun 01 | Europe
The disappeared of Belarus
19 Jun 98 | Europe
Alexander Lukashenko: a profile
16 Oct 00 | Europe
Belarus vote condemned
04 Jun 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Belarus
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