Belarus president dismisses assassination plot: report

MINSK (AFP) - Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday rejected the possibility that a bomb attack at a concert he was attending in Minsk on Friday could have been an assassination attempt.

"I don't think that it was aimed at me, although it would have been a bonus for them. This was an attack against ordinary people," Lukashenko was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying during a visit to a museum near the capital.

A spokesman for Lukashenko told AFP that the Belarussian leader was standing far away from the place where the bomb was detonated but was nonetheless able to visit the scene within minutes of the explosion.

The explosion of a home-made bomb packed with nuts and bolts at a massive outdoor concert in Minsk in the early hours of Friday injured dozens of people. A second device was found at the concert but failed to detonate.

"I doubt it was aimed at me. It's hard to scare me. This was carried out by repulsive, cowardly people.... We will react in a different way. Their provocation didn't work," Lukashenko added.

The Belarussian leader also said that Russian security services were helping in the investigation and that Belarus was ready to accept an offer of assistance from the United States if needed despite frosty diplomatic ties.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast and Belarussian authorities have opened an inquiry for hooliganism. Opponents of the authoritarian Lukashenko have urged him not to use the attack as an excuse to crack down.

The United States has labelled Belarus as "the last dictatorship in Europe" and imposed sanctions on the isolated former Soviet republic, whose main political ally and economic partner is Russia.