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PACE to discuss Belarus democratization at its April session

MOSCOW, April 6 (RIA Novosti) - An April session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will focus among other issues on democratic processes in Belarus, a spokesman for the council of Europe said Friday.

The spokesman said that leaders from the Belarusian political opposition, Alexander Milinkevich and Anatoly Lebedko, were invited to take part in the session scheduled for April 16-20.

Many international public human rights groups and politicians have repeatedly expressed their concerns over democratic processes in Belarus claiming that individual human rights were being infringed under the rule of the country's president, Alexander Lukashenko.

Lukashenko, dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by Washington, was officially reelected for a third term last March. Western nations, including the United States, called the elections fraudulent and introduced sanctions against the country and travel bans on some Belarusian officials, urging Lukashenko to release political prisoners and improve his human rights record.

The opposition led by presidential candidate Milinkevich protested the results of the elections in central Minsk, trying to repeat the "orange and rose revolutions" of Ukraine and Georgia. The rally was soon dispelled and Milinkevich was briefly arrested.

The charismatic 52-year-old president, who has support in his homeland for maintaining relative stability in comparison with some other former Soviet republics, responded last month to a recent opposition rally by saying the opposition had no chance of gaining control over the country.

About 4,000 opposition supporters gathered in Minsk, the capital, last month to mark the formation of the Belarusian People's Republic in 1918, which lasted a few months until the Soviets entered the country.

"We will not give them the country, and we will hit back at those who have the nerve to roll back current developments," said Lukashenko.

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