Polish Newspaper Backtracks On Belarus Opposition Talks Story

WARSAW (AFP)--A Polish daily Tuesday backtracked on a report the previous day that Belarussian opposition leaders had made a joint appeal to President Alexander Lukashenko to sit down for talks.

"In reality there wasn't a joint appeal," Andrzej Talaga, head of the international desk at the newspaper Dziennik, told AFP.

"We used an unfortunate expression in our article. It's our fault."

Monday, Dziennik carried what it called a joint appeal to Lukashenko by United Civic Party leader Anatol Labedzka, Vintsuk Vyachorka of the Belarussian Popular Front, Belarus' former president Stanislav Shushkevich and former presidential candidate Alexander Milinkevich.

It said they had called on Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, to negotiate with them in an effort to stop the ex-Soviet republic from falling under Russian control.

But Tuesday Labedzka used another Polish newspaper, Rzeczpospolita, to deny any such demand.

"We didn't call for 'round table' talks...The reason is simple: Lukashenko isn't ready for a dialog with the opposition," he was quoted as saying.

Shushkevich also objected, saying: "There isn't and there has never been a joint opposition appeal for a 'round table.' It's a lie."

The story broke amid tensions ahead of Belarus' Sept. 28 parliamentary elections. Past polls have been criticized by the West as rigged.



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