Belarus officials could face travel ban

BRUSSELS, Sweden, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The United States could impose a travel ban on top Belarusian officials if it doesn't release political prisoners, a U.S. official said.

The potential travel ban would likely be enforced by the United States and other members of the European Union, EUobserver reported Thursday.

The political prisoners were rounded up following last month's elections. The United States and the EU have called on President Alexander Lukashenko for their release.

"Both the EU and ourselves want to keep our postures on Belarus harmonized. But we're not going to make announcements on the same day," said Thomas Melia, a diplomat working on democracy and human rights issues in the U.S. State Department.

Melia made his comments during a visit to Brussels where the EU is headquartered.

"Definitely one of the things we are looking at is a travel ban on officials in the Belarus government -- technically what steps are going to be taken in that direction will be decided in the next few days," Melia said.

Melia, avoiding the term "ultimatum," said Belarus still has time to avoid sanctions if they release "scores of people still in detention, at a minimum.

"The door is not closed yet, but it is closing. Decisions will be taken in Washington and Brussels in the next couple of weeks," Melia said.


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