EU to Slap Sanctions on Belarus
VOA News January 31, 2011
European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels are voting on sanctions against Belarus, following a violent crackdown on opposition supporters there after last month's presidential elections.
The ministers are expected to impose travel restrictions on Belarusian government officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, who was elected to a fourth term December 19 in a vote that the opposition says was rigged.
The EU has decided on the sanctions despite the release on Saturday of seven detainees, including an opposition presidential candidate, Vladimir Neklyayev, who was among hundreds of protesters detained in the December crackdown.
European Union ministers say they want to send a strong message to Lukashenko's government, once described by Washington as the last dictatorship in Europe.
According to official election results, President Lukashenko won 80 percent of the vote, but international observers have strongly criticized the count.
Since his re-election, Lukashenko has cracked down on the opposition, jailing candidates who ran against him, along with hundreds of opposition protesters.
In response, the European Parliament earlier this month voted in favor of new sanctions against Belarus, including denying the Lukashenko government funding through the International Monetary Fund.
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