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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Belarus welcomes thaw with EU, stresses brotherhood with Russia

RIA Novosti

20/10/2008 19:40 MINSK, October 20 (RIA Novosti) - President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday that Belarus would like to have good relations with the EU, but would not sacrifice its traditional ties to Russia.

"All obstacles for dialogue with the EU have been removed, but we are one people with Russians," the Belarusian president said.

Lukashenko, once dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the United States, was speaking to journalists about the European Union's recent suspension of sanctions against Belarusian officials.

"The main result is that we can communicate with Europe not through the Iron Curtain, nor across the Berlin Wall. This cost us dearly, you must agree," he said.

Foreign ministers of the 27-member European Union agreed October 13 in Luxembourg to suspend sanctions against the Belarusian leadership for six months.

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

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

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.

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