Washington Condemns Opposition Arrests In Belarus

Belarus - A woman counting her change passes a pre-election poster with the portraits of the presidential candidates, Minsk, 15 Mar. 2006

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The United States today condemned the Belarusian government's arrest of 20 campaign workers for Alyaksandr Milinkevich, the main opposition candidate in the March 19 presidential election.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli also criticized President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's government for the seizure of newspapers in Belarus, and said such behavior is at odds with its responsibilities under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"All of these actions are clearly inconsistent with the government of Belarus' claims that it intends to hold a free and fair election this Sunday, and also inconsistent with its commitments to the OSCE - as a member of the OSCE."

Ereli said the United States will be carefully watching the March 19 election, in which Lukashenka is running for a third term.

Lukashenka's government is not allowing representatives of the European Parliament and the OSCE to monitor the vote.