MOSCOW (Reuters) - Embattled Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said constitutional reforms would be drawn up by the end of the year and then put to a national referendum, RIA news agency reported on Sunday.
Belarus has been rocked by protests since an Aug. 9 presidential election marred by voter fraud allegations. Lukashenko, in power since 1994, has rejected criticism while presiding over a sweeping crackdown in the ex-Soviet republic.
Facing the biggest political crisis of his rule, he has proposed constitutional reforms, an initiative backed by traditional ally Russia, but one that his critics dismiss as a stalling tactic to help him ride out the unrest.
The proposals have been light on detail, but in comments to Russia's Rossiya-1 Lukashenko said he thought reforms would be drawn up over the course of the year.
"...I think the draft of the new constitution will be ready by the end of the current year. And then people will determine at a referendum if there should be a new constitution or not," he was quoted by RIA as saying.
The date of the referendum will be announced at a meeting of the National Assembly, which is due to convene on Feb. 11-12, he said.
Lukashenko said in November that he would step down as president once a new constitution is adopted.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Mark Heinrich and Elaine Hardcastle)