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US, EU Impose New Sanctions on Belarus


24 March 2006

The United States and European Union have announced new sanctions against Belarus following the arrest overnight of opposition activists who had protested the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.

A White House spokesman said Washington will work with the EU in applying targeted travel restrictions against Mr. Lukashenko and others. He condemned the sweep by Belarusian security forces through Minsk's October Square to break up protests by opposition activists against what they considered fraud in Sunday's elections. The spokesman called for the release of the several hundred arrested.

Earlier, EU leaders, at their summit in Brussels, agreed to extend restrictions against Mr. Lukashenko, including a ban on his travel to union countries.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe of instigating tensions during the election campaign.

Meanwhile, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, whose country chairs the O.S.C.E., also condemned the arrests and urged release of the detainees.

O.S.C.E. observers who monitored Sunday's balloting said voting was marred by intimidation and the suppression of independent voices, and noted the "arbitrary use of state power and widespread detentions" of opposition supporters.

Belarusian election officials say President Lukashenko won a third consecutive term in office with 83 percent of the vote, while opposition challenger, Alexander Milinkevich, garnered only six percent support.



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