Belarus Election Chief Warns Opposition

March 18, 2006 -- The head of Belarus's Central Election Commission today accused Western countries of trying to exert pressure on the government ahead of the March 19 presidential polls.

In comments carried by the official Belta news agency, Lidya Yermoshina also cautioned opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich against staging an unsanctioned rally on election day, saying it could have "unpredictable consequences."

Addressing foreign reporters in Minsk, liberal opposition candidate Alyaksandr Kazulin today reiterated claims that Lukashenka will falsify the vote.

"It is clear today that an anticonstitutional coup and a plan to keep power by force are being prepared," Kazulin said. "I don't think we need explain into which category all this enters. This is why Alyaksandr Grigoryevich [Lukashenka] may enter the ranks of state criminals after March 19. He is obviously becoming the last dictator of Europe with all its consequences. What fate awaits dictators we all know very well and it is easy to give examples: [Romania's Nicolae] Ceaucescu, [Yugoslavia's Slobodan] Milosevic, [Iraq's Saddam] Hussein. Who will be next, we don't need great intellect to guess."

Lukashenka earlier warned that he will tolerate no street unrest and warned those he described as troublemakers that that he will "twist their heads off."

An authorized opposition-organized rock concert was held in Minsk today.

(Belta, Belarus TV)