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Lukashenko travel ban remains an option - EU

RIA Novosti

21:51 19/01/2011 MOSCOW / BRUSSELS, January 19 (RIA Novosti) - The EU's top diplomat confirmed on Wednesday plans to impose a travel ban on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko over a clampdown on the opposition after the disputed elections.

The Belarusian authorities detained hundreds of protesters, including opposition presidential candidates, after an unauthorized protest which followed the announcement that Lukashenko had won his fourth presidential election.

"In the short-term, reintroducing a travel ban for President Lukashenko and extending that ban to further named individuals, is certainly an option if detainees are not released," High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said.

EU sources earlier said more than 100 Belarusian officials could be subjected to sanctions.

Ashton called on the EU to show "a balanced reaction," combining sanctions on certain Belarusian officials with practical support for civil society, such as direct assistance for NGOs, the media and students.

"On the one hand, we have to consider targeted measures against the Belarusian authorities, and I believe, to conduct a review of sanctions. On the other hand, we need to have an intensified dialogue with, and support for, civil society and citizens," Ashton said.

She also called for the suspension of the Joint Interim Plan, designed last year to develop mid-term EU-Belarusian relations.

"I believe we have no option but to pause this process. This does not mean abandoning the Joint Interim Plan, but it implies that it would need further consultation, including with civil society, and review if necessary," Ashton said.

The final decision on the travel ban is to be taken at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on January 31. A consensus of all 27 EU member states is required for a ban.

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