EU urges Belarus to release detained opposition activists

Belarus should release those detained during the post-election beatings in Minsk in order to be invited to the EU summit due to be held in May in Hungary, Hungarian ambassador to Belarus, Ferenc Kontra said on Wednesday.

Thousands of people took to the streets after election results gave Belarusian permanent leader Alexander Lukashenko - often referred to as "Europe's last dictator" - 79.7 percent of the vote. Police then dispersed the demonstration having detained more than 630 people.

About 400 have been released so far.

"The decision [over Belarus' participation in EU summit] has yet been made. The invitations have yet been sent. But Belarus officials should make peculiar steps in order to receive the invitation," Kontra said, adding that all those detained during the post-election protest must be released.

On Tuesday Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said that Lukashenko may be put back on the EU entry ban list.

Lukashenko and 40 other officials were banned from entering the EU after similar post-election riots in 2006.

An EU diplomatic source said the new list already includes more than 100 people responsible for the brutal crackdown after the disputed election on December 19.

Some EU countries have called for an emergency EU ministerial meeting next week to put the new list into play. But Germany and Sweden have said the bloc should wait until a scheduled EU meeting on January 31.

Bildt also said that Belarus may see none of the EU's pre-election offer of 3 billion euros ($4 billion) in economic aid over the next three years.

MINSK, January 5 (RIA Novosti)


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