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Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: Exiled opposition leader says she doesn't fear extradition to Belarus

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By Daniel Bellamy with AFP
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Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: Exiled opposition leader says she doesn't fear extradition to Belarus
Copyright  Associated Press
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Belarus's exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has said she continues to feel safe in Lithuania and is confident she won't be extradited back to her country.

On Saturday Lithuania's foreign minister said "hell will freeze over first" before the demand by Belarusian authorities is granted.

Tsikhanouskaya was the main opposition candidate to counter President Alexander Lukashenko in a disputed August 9 presidential election.

Official results showed Lukashenko received 80 per cent of the vote but the opposition says the outcome was rigged.

Unprecedented mass protests demanding Lukashenko's resignation rocked Belarus for several months following the election.

Tsikhanouskaya fled to neighbouring Lithuania following the election amid pressure from Belarusian authorities.

Belarus' general prosecutor has demanded she be extradited to face charges that she plotted to stage violent riots.

Tsikhanouskaya's team rejected the charges, saying in a statement that she has only ever supported peaceful protests.

On Sunday, the eve of International Women's Day, she wrote on Twitter to encourage women in Belarus to again protest against the government.

Tsikhanouskaya is in Lisbon to hold meetings with Portuguese political leaders, as the country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

On Friday morning Tsikhanouskaya met with the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva.

The United States and the European Union have said that the election was neither free nor fair and urged Lukashenko to engage in talks with the opposition, a demand he has rejected.

International pressure has so far left Lukashenko relying exclusively on assistance from Russia, which has a union agreement with Belarus envisaging close political, economic and military ties.