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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

EU Lawmakers Urge Easing of Belarusian Sanctions

By VOA News

09 October 2008

The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to reexamine sanctions against the authoritarian government in Belarus, with the aim of eventually easing visa bans against government leaders.

The non-binding resolution, passed Thursday, calls on EU countries to review and possibly suspend some of the bans.

The European Union and the United States in 2006 slapped new sanctions on President Alexander Lukashenko and top members of his government, following presidential elections that Western monitors said were rigged.

But Thursday, parliament recommended that EU countries partially suspend sanctions for six months, if Mr. Lukashenko eases a restrictive media law under which dozens of independent journalist have been jailed.

EU foreign ministers are set to discuss the vote at talks next week, Monday, in Luxembourg.

Last month, monitors for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the Belarusian parliamentary elections had fallen short of democratic standards, despite what they called "minor improvements" in procedures.

Before the polls, U.S. and EU officials had voiced optimism over prospects of a thaw in diplomatic ties with Belarus, after authorities in Minsk freed former opposition presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin from prison.

Kozulin received a five-and-a-half-year prison term in 2006, for openly protesting President Lukashenko's reelection. Kozulin and international monitors had cited widespread voter fraud.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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