DATE: 2005-03-26 22:55:46

Belarusian authorities open criminal inquiry into mass oppositionrally

MOSCOW, March 26 (Xinhuanet) -- Belarusian authorities opened a criminal inquiry Saturday one day after a mass opposition rally in Belarus, in which 34 people were arrested, reports from Minsk said.

Many of the detainees may be charged with mass acts breaching the peace and face up to a three-year jail sentence, said a police spokesman.

On Friday, about 1,000 protesters gathered outside the presidential palace in Minsk, demanding President Alexander Lukashenko's resignation.

Police later dispersed the crowd with truncheons and dogs, and a number of protesters had suffered minor injuries in the clash.

Opposition supporters have for years demonstrated on March 25 in Minsk to commemorate the founding of the Belarusian People's Republic in 1918. Friday's protest was one of the biggest in the Belarusian capital in recent months.

Lukashenko, who came into power in 1994, was under strong criticism last year for a referendum which scrapped presidential term limits and gave him the go-ahead to seek a third term in