Belarus president names KGB head as security chief

By Andrei Makhovsky

MINSK, July 15 (Reuters) - Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday appointed the KGB security service chief to head the ex-Soviet state's Security Council following a rare bomb blast at an outdoor concert.

Lukashenko, accused in the West of violating basic freedoms, dismissed the head of the Security Council as well as his chief of staff for failing to prevent the July 4 blast that injured more than 50 people.

Belarus's liberal and nationalist opposition said about a dozen of its activists were rounded up after the blast and senior figures announced they were considering a boycott of a September parliamentary election. The president hopes the poll will prove that Belarus observes democratic principles.

Lukashenko's office said Yuri Zhadobin had been appointed to head the Security Council. He replaced Viktor Sheiman, previously considered one of the most influential officials in the country of 10 million wedged between Russia and three European Union states.

Zhadobin had served as head of the security service, still known in Belarus by its Soviet-era KGB abbreviation. Before that he had been in charge of Lukashenko's personal security unit.

The president also announced the appointment of Vladimir Makei, previously his personal assistant, as chief of staff in place of the sacked Gennady Nevyglas.

On Monday, police dispersed dozens a protest by dozens of opposition activists denouncing the detention of their comrades.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, which the authorities called an act of "hooliganism" -- a common Soviet-era phrase used to play down such incidents. Lukashenko, generally popular in the country, has pledged to stage no crackdown on opponents.

Opposition groups say the detentions could compromise the election and any boycott would diminish any chance of Western recognition. The opposition has no seats now in parliament.

Lukashenko, barred from entering the United States and European Union, has been trying to improve ties with the EU, which says any such development depends on democratic change. (Writing by Ron Popeski; editing by Sami Aboudi)