Belarus warns EU against resuming sanctions

Minsk - Belarus' Foreign Ministry on Tuesday warned European countries against reintroducing sanctions on the former Soviet republic in the wake of a harsh crackdown last month on opposition politicians, the Belapan news agency reported.

'This is a counterproductive position that has already proved its futility in the past decade,' Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh was quoted as saying.

'From our side we call for a sober evaluation of the situation and a continuation of constructive dialogue at all levels.'

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Monday called for reinstating a ban on travel to the European Union by Belarusian leader Aleksander Lukashenko because of the arrest of opposition politicians and demonstrators after the December poll, in which Lukashenko was re-elected to the scepticism of many observers.

The imposition of such a ban is also being considered by Berlin, the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Tuesday.

A ban instituted in 2006 was later lifted after the release of prominent political prisoners.

Savinykh said that 'some of our European partners have a distorted view of of the real political and social situation in the Belarus.' Imposing sanctions against Belarus, he said, 'will damage normal cooperation and values to which they declare their commitment,' he said.

Bildt told the Brussels-based EUobserver Monday that those responsible for jailing opposition leaders should be held to account.

'We have to follow the logic of our previous policies,' Bildt was quoted as saying.

'The last time, when we no longer had political prisoners, we took positive steps. Now we have many more prisoners and those who took part in the actions which took place and those who collaborated with them will inevitably come back on the list.'

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and other observers roundly criticized the December presidential poll. Last week, Minsk threatened to close the OSCE's Belarusian offices.


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