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Milinkevich Urges Supporters to Suspend Protest for 5 Days


21 March 2006

Belarusian opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich says he is urging his supporters to suspend for about five days their protest over what they believe was fraud in Sunday's presidential elections.

Mr. Milinkevich says he will issue his call this evening in an address to supporters gathered for the third day in Minsk's October Square to protest official results, which show President Alexander Lukashenko re-elected by a wide margin.

Meanwhile, Belarusian police have detained at least four opposition activists and several foreigners (Estonians and Georgians) during the protest.

Observers say police were blocking people from bringing food and warm drinks to those protesting in the freezing temperatures. But the scene was reported calm.

President Lukashenko has rejected criticism of his landslide victory, saying attempts to spark a "revolution" had failed.

U.S. and European officials have condemned the vote, and warned they are considering sanctions against Belarus officials.

Mr. Lukashenko has wide support among many elderly and rural Belarusians who believe he has kept the country stable after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But the United States calls him Europe's last dictator because of his suppression of human rights and free speech.

Belarusian opposition groups are hoping to unseat Mr. Lukashenko through peaceful protests like those seen recently in Ukraine and Georgia.

Protest organizers say at least 108 people have been detained in various incidents.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.



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