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News Briefs I

U.S. Grants Asylum To Dissident Belarus Politicians

Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

The Clinton administration granted political asylum Friday to two opposition politicians from Belarus, accusing the strategically located former Soviet republic of a pattern of human rights abuses that echoes the repression of the Communist era.

It was the first time since the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991 that the United States has conferred refugee status on dissidents from any of the 15 former Soviet republics.

Zenon Poznyak, head of the Belarusian Popular Front, and his press secretary, Sergei Naumchik, announced the decision at a news conference, handing reporters a letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service certifying they had "established a well-founded fear of persecution were you to return to your country." That language represents the internationally recognized standard for asylum.

The men said they fled Belarus because their lives were endangered by the hard-line regime of President Alexander Lukashenko. They issued a statement accusing him of reverting to Soviet-era policies and of subverting Belarusian sovereignty by signing an economic agreement with Russia that reduces Belarus to little more than a vassal state.

Last week, Lukashenko announced plans to cancel a parliamentary election, ordering a referendum on extending his powers. In its most recent human rights report, the State Department said the Lukashenko government's human rights record "worsened markedly as Belarus turned back toward Soviet-era authoritarian practices."

Dole Makes Call For New Civil Rights Agenda

The Washington Post
NASHVILLE, Tenn.

Bob Dole brought his presidential campaign before an African American audience for the first time Friday, telling a convention of black journalists that the Republican Party "will never be whole until it earns the broad support of African Americans by speaking to their hopes."

The Republican nominee apologized for his party's "missed opportunities" in civil rights struggles and for his failure to address the NAACP last month. He pitched boldly for the black vote and called for a "new civil rights agenda focused not simply on rights, but on jobs, education, and safer, stronger families."

But Dole offered nothing concrete to uplift poor inner-city communities beyond his campaign's tax-cutting plan and traditional Republican promises of urban "enterprise zones" and "opportunity scholarships" for low- and middle-income families.

He drew sharp distinction with Democrats and his voting record by denouncing race-based preferences such as quotas and set-asides as divisive. Instead, he urged corporations, government and universities to achieve "what I define as real affirmative action:" aggressive minority recruitment.

Apartheid-Era Foes in South Africa Offer Competing Truths

The Washington Post
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: That is not what South Africa's truth commission heard this week.

The accounts of murder, torture and spying were real enough. In key testimony from party leaders, the commission heard of the white-minority National Party that used repression to hang onto control of a country whose racist policies were condemned around the globe. It heard of the now-ruling African National Congress, whose underground struggle was viewed widely as noble. But, besieged and undisciplined, it, too, committed abuses.

All of that is true, so far as it goes. But as the apartheid-era foes squared off with separate accounts of their decades-long conflict, what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission really heard were the opening shots in a political and ideological war over how much truth to tell, where the blame should lie and whether the ends justified the means.

Apartheid ended in 1994, but its battles live on.

The truth commission, which sat this week in Cape Town, is investigating human rights abuses during the anti-apartheid struggle and trying to unearth the truth about the blood-soaked past.