Belarusian authorities condemn Kyrgyz revolution, police disperse protesters

Belarusian police on Friday drove demonstrators calling for President Alexander Lukashenko's resignation away from his office just as the government criticized Kyrgyzstan's opposition for the seizure of power there.

About 1,000 opposition demonstrators tried to gather near the presidential palace in downtown Minsk but were pushed away by police, who have detained about a dozen opposition activists.

The protest's organizer, Andrei Klimov, said the demonstration was intended to help spark a revolution similar to those that have swept the ex-Soviet nations of Georgia, Ukraine and, most recently, Kyrgyzstan, ousting unpopular governments.

"Today's gathering must send a signal to the West, Russia and our own bureaucrats that Belarus is ready for a serious change," Klimov said.

The events in Kyrgyzstan where thousands of opposition protesters took over government buildings, driving President Askar Akayev from office, have turned up the heat on other autocratic rulers across the ex-Soviet space.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on Friday harshly assailed the Kyrgyz opposition, warning that its action could destabilize the entire region. "The unconstitutional overthrow of the government in Kyrgyzstan could have fatal consequences for peace, stability and prosperity in the country, as well as in the Central Asian region as a whole," it said.

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled his nation of 10-million people with an iron fist, stifling dissent, persecuting independent media and opposition parties and prolonging his power through elections international organizations say were marred by fraud.

In October, Lukashenko, who has been called Europe's last dictator, pushed through a referendum that will allow him to seek a third term in 2006 and run in subsequent elections.

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