Expulsion of U.S. diplomat sparks dispute in Belarus

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Reuter / Larisa Sayenko

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Mar 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM3/24/97
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<I><A HREF='http://www.clari.net/'>ClariNet</A> <CLARI-ITEM TYPE>story</CLARI-ITEM> <B><CLARI-ITEM SLUGWORD>BELARUS</CLARI-ITEM></B> from <CLARI-ITEM FROM>Reuter / Larisa Sayenko</CLARI-ITEM></I><BR>
<H1><CLARI-ITEM HEADLINE>Expulsion of U.S. diplomat sparks dispute in Belarus</CLARI-ITEM></H1>
<I><B><CLARI-ITEM COPYRIGHT>Copyright 1997 by Reuters</CLARI-ITEM></B></I> / <I><CLARI-ITEM DATE>Mon, 24 Mar 1997 12:02:12 PST</CLARI-ITEM></I><P>
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<P> MINSK, Belarus (Reuter) - The expulsion of a U.S. diplomat
sparked a dispute in the former Soviet republic of Belarus
Monday, with the U.S. Embassy protesting and Minsk accusing
Washington of behaving disrespectfully.</P>
<P> Serzh Alexandrov, a first secretary at the embassy, was
arrested at an opposition rally which erupted in clashes Sunday,
detained several hours, and told to leave in 24 hours.</P>
<P> ``Ambassador Kenneth Yalovitz has strongly protested this
action...and he did so at the highest level of the Belarus
government,'' an embassy spokesman said.</P>
<P> The State Department had been informed of the ``arbitrary
and unjustified'' action which it viewed ``with the utmost
seriousness and gravity,'' he said.</P>
<P> ``We consider observing demonstrations and other political
manifestations to be a normal part of a diplomat's activity,''
another spokeswoman said.</P>
<P> But the press secretary for President Alexander Lukashenko's
Security Council accused U.S. representatives of meddling in
internal affairs and of supporting the opposition.</P>
<P> ``Despite its problems Belarus is a sovereign state and not
a hallway. Bigger countries should respect its sovereignty,''
said Vasily Baranov.</P>
<P> ``When in Rome, do as the Romans do. For example I cannot
imagine myself taking part in an action aimed at overthrowing
President Clinton,'' he added.</P>
<P> According to state-controlled television, Alexandrov was
accused of working for the Central Intelligence Agency, of
putting ``crude pressure'' on the Interior Ministry and of
committing ``provocative actions'' at the protest Sunday.</P>
<P> The United States has been one of the most vociferous
opponents of Lukashenko's increasingly authoritarian rule and
cut off $40 million in aid over its human rights performance.</P>
<P> It accused police of using unnecessary force to put down
peaceful protests and of arresting bystanders at some of a
series of recent rallies against Lukashenko.</P>
<P> A loose union of prominent politicians, nationalists,
intellectuals and students mainly in the capital actively oppose
Lukashenko, but most of the population of 10 million backed him
at a referendum last November.</P>
<P> The 42-year-old former farm boss Lukashenko won the right to
rewrite the constitution and award himself vastly increased
powers over his country on Russia's western border.</P>
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