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Tsikhanouskaya says she would not seek Belarus presidency if new elections held

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Belarusian politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has led the biggest challenge to Alexander Lukashenko’s 26-year rule of Belarus, said in an interview aired on Friday that would not run for the presidency if the country holds new elections.

Tsikhanouskaya, who became Lukashenko’s opposition rival in the contested Aug. 9 election in which he was declared the victor, has fled to neighbouring Lithuania. She emerged from obscurity to take her husband Siarhei Tsikhanouski’s place in the election campaign after he was jailed in May.

“I’m not planning to run myself,” Tsikhanouskaya said in an interview with Belsat TV when asked if she or her husband, a well-known video blogger, would run for the presidency if new elections are held as the opposition has sought.

“More than enough,” Tsikhanouskaya, who led some of the biggest protests against Lukashenko since he came to power with the fall of the Soviet Union, replied when asked if she had enough of politics.

Mass protests broke out against Lukashenko, accusing him of rigging the election, allegations that he denies.

Tsikhanouskaya said the release of political prisoners is one of the demands of protesters and “new fair transparent elections can restore justice.”

The 37-year-old former English teacher was never supposed to be the leader of popular resistance to Lukashenko, a former Soviet collective farm boss. But when her husband was jailed and other candidates were barred from running in the election, Tsikhanouskaya became the prime challenger to Lukashenko, whose claims of a landslide victory were disputed by the opposition.

Earlier this week, Tsikhanouskaya had said she was ready to lead Belarus, a country of 9.5 million, and had called for the creation of a legal mechanism to ensure that a new fair presidential election could be held.

Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Chris Reese and Will Dunham

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