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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Belarus leader Lukashenko threatens to "kick out" U.S. ambassador

RIA Novosti

30/12/2007 15:10 MINSK, December 30 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko threatened U.S. ambassador Karen Stewart with expulsion from the country should Washington introduce new sanctions against the republic.

Stewart said in mid-December new economic sanctions which would be added to the existing restrictions could be imposed against Belarusian state-run companies.

"She [the ambassador] would be the first to be kicked out. She attends opposition hangouts and says economic sanctions could be introduced against Belarus, heating up the situation. Let the American ambassador deal with her own problems, for otherwise she may leave her post in Belarus ahead of time," Lukashenko told journalists.

The controversial Belarusian leader, dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by Washington, promised to react toughly in the economic sphere. "We will survive even without U.S. dollars. We don't have many of them... If Americans don't want us to work with their currency, we will stop using it," he said.

In mid-November, the U.S. introduced sanctions against Belarus's national petrochemical company Belneftekhim and froze the assets of its U.S. subsidiary, which Belarus said breached a bilateral trade deal, designed to give better access for Belarusian goods and services, as well as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Belneftekhim then had to switch to euros in its settlements from December 20.

Lukashenko said the U.S. sanctions were caused by Belarus starting work in Venezuela. In December, a joint Belarusian-Venezuelan oil production company was opened there, with plans to produce about 7 million tons (51.45 million bbl) of oil annually, 40% for Belarus and 60% for Venezuela.

"They don't like that we have started working in Venezuela... But we go where we are accepted," he said.

The U.S. and the European Union have accused Lukashenko of clamping down on dissent, stifling the media and rigging elections. Lukashenko, who was re-elected to a third term last year, and other senior Belarusian officials have been blacklisted from entering the U.S. and EU.

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