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U.S. Department of State 
96/11/21 Statement: Belarus: Political Crisis Intensifying 
Office of the Spokesman 
Press Statement by Glyn Davies/Acting Spokesman 
November 21, 1996 
                 Belarus: Political Crisis Intensifying 
The escalating political crisis in Belarus is a matter of concern to all 
democratic nations.  The manner in which the referendum scheduled for 
November 24 has been conducted has created an atmosphere of instability 
and fear within Belarus that has alarmed the international community and 
will have negative political and economic consequences for the people of 
Belarus.  Several senior Belarusian government officials, including the 
Prime Minister, have demonstrated their understanding of the danger to 
the nation's future by tendering their resignations. 
The fundamental cause for the volatile situation in Belarus is the 
attempt to increase the powers of the Presidency through a referendum on 
November 24.  The existing Belarusian Constitution provides for asystem 
of checks and balances -- a fundamental element of a democracy.  It has 
been proposed to change the Constitution in a way that would eliminate 
those checks and balances and grant the President virtually unlimited 
powers.  The OSCE has determined that the process leading up to the 
referendum "deprives the referendum of legitimacy."

  It is not the goal of the United States to dictate to the people of 
Belarus what form of government they should have.  We do, however, 
consider it essential that all parties in Belarus act exclusively within 
the  framework of the Belarusian Constitution and OSCE principles with 
full respect for democratic norms, freedom of speech and assembly and 
basic human rights.  Along with other OSCE participating states, the 
United States urges once again that all parties in Belarus seek a 
compromise that both upholds the Helsinki principles that Belarus also 
has pledged to accept, and offers a foundation on which to build strong 
democratic institutions. 
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