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Lukashenko Fires Ministers for 'Inefficiency'

The president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, fired his prime minister and two other ministers in his cabinet on Thursday after accusing them of inefficiency, a lack of organization and lying.

The Belarus president dismissed the country's prime minister, Gennadi Novitsky, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Popkov and Agriculture Ministry chief Mikhail Rusyi.

Mr. Lukashenko says he took the drastic action, because of, "the cabinet's ineffective operations, its failure to fulfill the president's demands to provide social protection to the population and also because of its falsification and distortion of facts."

Speaking at an emergency government meeting on wage payments, the Belarusian leader specifically accused the ministers of lying to him when they said that the government had paid its massive debts to collective farms.

"Nobody will be forgiven for deceiving the president," he said.

He immediately appointed Deputy Prime Minister for Industry Sergei Sidorsky as acting prime minister to succeed Mr. Novitsky, himself the fourth prime minister during Mr. Lukashenko's rule.

Mr. Lukashenko, who has led the nation of 10 million people for the past nine years, tolerates little dissent in the former Soviet republic, and he has often been accused of ruling in a totalitarian style. During his years in office, he has dissolved an opposition parliament, extended his term in a disputed referendum and won re-election in a vote that was strongly criticized by international watchdogs.

Mr. Lukashenko has resisted market reforms in Belarus, which has been seen as a major reason for the country's isolation from the West and for its faltering economic growth.

In the past, Mr. Lukashenko has repeatedly threatened to get rid of his cabinet, blaming his ministers for the state of the Belarusian economy.