Munich conference disinvites Belarus minister

The Munich Security Conference rescinded on Tuesday the Belarussian foreign minister's invitation to attend next month following December's crackdown on political opponents, organisers said.

"I made the decision this morning to disinvite the Belarussian foreign minister, who had been invited several weeks ago, so before the elections," said Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the annual meeting on defence issues.

"This is my small contribution to making what for me is a necessary signal to ... Belarus that 'business as usual' is not the correct way forward in the current circumstances," he said.

Amongst those attending the February 4-6 gathering in Germany will be US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, he added.

Some 600 people were jailed on December 19 in a heavy-handed suppression of protests in Minsk against what Western monitors said was the rigged re-election of strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko to a fourth term.

The crackdown earned Belarus a rebuke from the United States and the European Union, which is preparing to reinstate travel bans on Lukashenko and other top officials that were suspended in 2008, according to diplomats.

The Belarussian ambassador was meanwhile summoned for a second time into the German foreign ministry on Monday after a government mouthpiece newspaper accused Germany and Poland of plotting to overthrow Lukashenko, Berlin said.

Ischinger stressed that the Munich conference was a "private event" and not organised by the German government.


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