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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2006, 22:45 GMT
Dozens arrested in Belarus demos
Police arrest protesters in the Belarus capital, Minsk
Police officials have not commented on the arrests
Dozens of protesters have been arrested during anti-government protests in the Belarus capital, Minsk.

The demonstrations were being held to remember opposition figures who have disappeared or been imprisoned under President Alexander Lukashenko's rule.

About 200 people gathered in a central square to defy a ban on public rallies.

The protesters were also showing their support for the main opposition candidate in the presidential election which is due to be held on 19 March.

Several people were beaten and violently dragged into waiting police wagons, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.

Police also dispersed a second rally held near the building of the Belarussian KGB security service.

Oles Atroshchenkov, a youth activist, said at least 30 activists were arrested, including one of the rally organisers, Irina Khalip.

The main opposition candidate the election, Alexander Milinkevich, has said only a united opposition can challenge President Lukashenko.

"Our candidate is Milinkevich. Today our rally has a particular meaning. We want fair elections," Sergei, a 20-year-old student, told Reuters news agency.

Since coming to power in 1994, Mr Lukashenko has increasingly been accused of running an authoritarian state.

The US and the European Union have accused him of cracking down on opponents and silencing the media.

Mr Lukashenko has dismissed the criticisms, but has warned that there will be no revolution in Belarus, saying he will preserve stability, whatever it costs.

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