Posted on 16 Sep 2005 # Reuters

Belarus leader defends Saddam, mourns loss of USSR

By Evelyn Leopold, UNITED NATIONS: The president of Belarus mourned the dissolution of the Soviet Union, defended former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and said the United States was causing chaos in the world.

President Alexander Lukashenko, described by the Bush administration as the last dictator in Europe, also told world leaders at a UN summit yesterday that Iran and North Korea were only ''looked at through gun sights.'' ''Fifteen years have passed since the break-up of my country, the USSR,'' Lukashenko said. ''The Soviet Union, despite all mistakes and blunders of its leaders, was the source of hope and support for many states and peoples.'' He said the former Soviet Union provided a balance in the global system, now dominated by the United States which acts unilaterally and sees crises in ''black and white.'' Turning to the Balkans, he said the ''once prosperous Yugoslavia was devastated and disappeared from the map of Europe,'' while its former leader, Slobodan Milosevic's trial by a UN tribunal had turned into a ''caricature.'' In Iraq, Lukashenko said, former President Saddam Hussein was ''abandoned to the winner's mercy, like in barbarian times.'' The real weapons of destruction, he said, were not in Iraq but in the misery afflicting billions of people. ''Poverty and deprivation have become a real and not a virtual weapon of mass destruction, moreover, a racially selective one,'' he said.

In Afghanistan, he said, US-led forces ''ravaged'' the country with rockets and bombs to find Osama bin Laden, held responsible for the 2001 attacks on the United States.

''Where is he now?, Lukashenko asked. ''He is at large but Afghanistan and Iraqi territories began to generate hundreds and thousands of international terrorists.'' Belarus, however, is free from war, being rebuilt by using its ''own wits'' and marked by 10 million ''highly educated and tolerant people'' and diverse nationalities and religions, Lukashenko said.

He recalled that Belarus, wedged between Russia and Poland, was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945 after it lost a third of its population in World War II. But now the United Nations, particularly its human rights bodies, is used ''to control other countries.'' Lukashenko, in power since 1994, is accused of crushing Belarus's small, disunited liberal and nationalist opposition, cracking down on independent media and manipulating elections.

He is expected to run for a new term in 2006 after a referendum last year amended the constitution to enable him to stay in power.