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    Splits appear in Belarusian opposition after presidential poll

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    Nina Shidlovskaya said Milinkevich had broken an agreement reached on Tuesday night to tell supporters to abandon Oktyabrskaya Square in preparation for a major demonstration on March 25, the "Freedom Day."

    MINSK, March 22 (RIA Novosti) - Cracks in the Belarusian opposition started to emerge Wednesday after a spokeswoman for one of the leaders of the anti-presidential movement said he had accused an ally of reneging on a pact on urging supporters to abandon a protest in the center of the capital.

    About 300 people are still camping on the main square in Minsk in protest against Sunday's landslide election win for incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko, but a spokeswoman for Alexander Kozulin, the leader of the Belarusian Socio-Democratic (Gramada) Party, said fellow oppositionist and distant runner-up in the poll Alexander Milinkevich had gone back on a pledge to send the demonstrators home.

    Nina Shidlovskaya said Milinkevich had broken an agreement reached on Tuesday night to tell supporters to abandon Oktyabrskaya Square in preparation for a major demonstration on March 25, the "Freedom Day."

    "Shortly after the consultations [with Kozulin], Milinkevich and his close associates reneged on the agreement by calling on the protesters to stay on the square and continue the rally as long as necessary," Shidlovskaya said, adding that Kozulin's campaign staff was shocked at the conduct of their partners.

    The spokeswoman said the decision to leave the square had been made after the number of arrests among protesters had substantially increased in the past three days and the rally risked being dispersed by force. She added that the weather was also becoming worse.

    Shidlovskaya said Kozulin would now hold Milinkevich entirely responsible for any careless and uncoordinated steps, but was still open for consultations.

    Opposition representatives said Sunday's election was rigged and have demanded a re-run. Lukashenko, dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by Washington, was re-elected for a third five-year term with 82.6% of the vote. Milinkevich was a distant second with 6%, while Liberal Democratic leader Sergei Gaidukevich garnered 3.5%, and Kozulin 2.3%. Turnout was officially 92.6%.

    Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose union of ex-Soviet republics, have recognized the elections. The United States and the European Union have called for a re-run and said they are considering imposing sanctions against Belarus.

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