New OSCE head urges Belarus to reconsider closing Minsk office

The new chairperson of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Thursday called on Belarus to reconsider its decision to close the OSCE office in Minsk.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, the OSCE chairperson-in-office, said he "deeply regretted" that OSCE standards had not been met in recent elections in Belarus, and that the mandate of the OSCE Office in Minsk was not extended at the end of 2010.

"I call for reconsideration of the decision." Azubalis before the OSCE Permanent Council.

The Belarus Central Elections Commission on Dec. 24 announced the final results of the presidential elections, with President Alexander Lukashenko winning another five-year term.

Most international observers said the vote was legitimate, free and democratic, but others disagreed. The OSCE observing mission said the polls were flawed.

Belarus's Foreign Ministry announced at the end of last year that the country decided not to extend the mandate of OSCE office in Minsk, citing the "absence of objective justification for maintaining the OSCE mission in Belarus."

The Vienna-based OSCE is the world's largest regional security organization, with 56 participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America.

Lithuania took over the OSCE rotating chairmanship on Jan. 1 from Kazakhstan.


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