US prepares new sanctions against Belarus

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States is preparing new sanctions against Belarus following the post-election crackdown against the country's opposition, a senior US official disclosed Thursday.

These "additional sanctions" will be announced Monday, when the EU will unveil its own measures, in order to "send a unified international message" to the authorities in Minsk, said Philip Gordon, the top diplomat for Europe.

Like the European Union, Washington plans to extend the list of regime members who have been denied visas and have had assets frozen, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs told a Senate panel.

US President Barack Obama's administration also aims to revoke a license allowing for business ties between US citizens and two subsidiaries of Belneftekhim, Belarus's state oil company.

The EU is set to impose visa bans and asset freezes on Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and 160 of his associates, diplomatic sources told AFP in Brussels.

Lukashenko, who has been in power for 16 years, was sworn in for a fourth term in office on January 21, during a ceremony that was boycotted by the EU and the United States.

Washington and Brussels have strongly condemned the post-election crackdown which resulted in the arrests of more than 600 people, including seven opposition candidates.

The United States, Gordon said, also wants to boost support for "civil society, access to information and political competition, and providing opportunities for more interaction between Belarussian citizens and the outside world."

It plans to increase last year's figure of 11 million dollars by 30 percent, he added.

Like Brussels, Washington imposed the first set of sanctions on Belarus in 2006, following elections, before easing them slightly in 2008.


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