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EU Again Warns Belarus Of Sanctions If Polls Rigged

March 16, 2006 -- The European Commission today threatened Belarus with further sanctions if the presidential election on March 19 is rigged.

The sanctions could include adding names to the list of six Belarusian officials already banned from traveling to EU territory, said Emma Udwin, a spokeswoman for EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

However, she made clear that the EU has "no intention of taking any measures that would harm the population of Belarus."

Any steps would be "targeted on those who are deemed to be responsible for elections that are judged not free and fair."

Ferrero-Waldner's statement also called for the immediate release of all Belarusian opposition activists arrested in the run-up to the election and criticized the government of incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for refusing to allow EU parliamentarians to monitor the March 19 poll.

Meanwhile, in Belarus, the head of the secret police, Stsyapan Sukharenka, accused the opposition of planning to use street protests to seize power violently and warned that the KGB and the Belarusian authorities would treat all antigovernment demonstrators as "terrorists."

Sukharenka also accused Georgia of serving as a training ground for alleged terrorists.

Officials in Tbilisi have dismissed those accusations as "absurd."

(Reuters, dpa, Civil Georgia, Novosti-Gruziya)

Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org



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