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OSCE Says Belarus Presidential Vote Not Free or Fair


European election monitors say Sunday's election in Belarus was not democratic.

President Alexander Lukashenko claimed more than 80 percent of the vote in the election, and said it showed that what he called a "revolution" supported by outside pressure had failed.

Election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said today (Monday) the election failed to meet accepted international standards.

The OSCE cited "many serious violations" and "arbitrary use of state power and widespread detentions" of opposition supporters. The European Union says the election was marred by a "climate of intimidation."

By contrast, Russian election observers declared the election fair. The leading opposition candidate, Alexander Milinkevich, says the election was rigged and called Mr. Lukashenko's continued rule "illegal and illegitimate."

Supporters of Mr. Milinkevich held a rally in Minsk Sunday night and plan another demonstration in the capital today.

Election officials say Mr. Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet Republic since 1994, won with more than 80 percent of the vote, while Mr. Milinkevich garnered only three percent support.

The West has criticized Mr. Lukashenko for his poor human rights record, with both the European Union and the United States threatening sanctions if the Belarus election is found to be fraudulent.

President Bush has called Mr. Lukashenko "Europe's last dictator." Washington also has sharply criticized Belarusian authorities for detaining scores of opposition activists leading up to the election.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and REUTERS.

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