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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

EU suspends sanctions against Belarus leadership

RIA Novosti

13/10/2008 16:23 LUXEMBOURG, October 13 (RIA Novosti) - Foreign ministers of the 27-member European Union agreed on Monday in Luxembourg to suspend sanctions against the Belarusian leadership for six months, Bulgaria's foreign minister said.

Forty Belarusian key political figures, including President Alexander Lukashenko, have been subject to a ban on entering the EU and have had their assets frozen since the 2006 presidential election, which international observers said did not comply with international norms.

Ivailo Kalfin said the decision followed the improvement in the human rights situation in Belarus and included Lukashenko.

The government of Belarus recently freed its remaining political prisoners and invited the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to observe parliamentary elections.

Lukashenko, once dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the United States, earlier said Europe had no right to introduce sanctions against Belarus for two reasons - firstly because Belarusians "defended all of Europe" during WWII while losing a third of its population, and secondly after the Chernobyl tragedy.

The EU voiced in September its intentions to expand political, trade and cultural exchanges with Belarus, including opening up to the country its "neighborhood" economic aid program.

Some EU politicians have also said that it would be wise to hold out a hand to Belarus as the country is coming under pressure from Russia to recognize the Georgian breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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