Canada limits ties with Belarus to protest vote

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada froze most of its relations with Belarus on Monday to protest against a recent presidential election in the former Soviet state that many observers said was deeply flawed.

Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said he had called in the Belarus ambassador "to voice Canada's condemnation of the absolute affront to democratic principles" of the March 19 election, which President Alexander Lukashenko won.

"Canada will limit its official relations with Belarussian authorities to the areas of consular relations, human rights and democratic development, and efforts related to international security such as the destruction of land mines," MacKay said in a statement.

"Canada will continue to work with its friends and allies ... to promote peaceful democratic change in Belarus and to protect the rights of its citizens."

The United States and the European Union last week imposed sanctions on Belarus, where around 150 protesters have been arrested. MacKay also demanded the release of a Canadian freelance journalist who was detained in Minsk last week.