NATO reviewing Belarus ties after election

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO has put an 11-year-old partnership pact with Belarus under review after a presidential election denounced in the West as flawed, an alliance spokesman said on Wednesday.

Separately, United Nations human rights experts asked Belarus to disclose the names of the estimated 1,000 people held in detention after demonstrations over the March 19 poll.

President Alexander Lukashenko's landslide victory has been branded fraudulent by international observers, the European Union and the United States, which said the vote took place in a "climate of fear."

The NATO spokesman said it was unclear what measures NATO allies might take but stressed there was broad dissatisfaction within the alliance at alleged vote-rigging and arrests of opponents.

"What is clear is that the allies are deeply concerned with the conduct of the elections and are looking carefully at the relationship with Belarus," NATO spokesman James Appathurai told a regular news briefing.

The "partnership for peace" pact signed by Minsk in 1995 has led to modest cooperation in areas such as NATO funding for the disposal of old anti-personnel landmines on Belarussian soil.

Any contacts have been limited to low-level meetings between military officials on matters such as civil emergency planning and border security, and did not involve any exchange of classified information, the spokesman said.

NATO ambassadors in Brussels are due to study options in coming days, Appathurai said.

The EU has said it is looking to launch sanctions such as a visa ban on Lukashenko and other top officials next month.

Adrian Severin, special rapporteur on human rights in Belarus, and six other U.N. rights envoys said on Wednesday that Belarussian and foreign journalists were among those being held in the Minsk area after a police crackdown on weekend protests.

"In most cases, family members are unaware of their whereabouts," the group said in a statement released in Geneva.

The U.N. experts, who include envoys on torture, freedom of expression, arbitrary detention and involuntary disappearances, asked Belarus to reveal the names and locations of those being detained, and details of the charges they are facing.

"The Special Rapporteurs also call for an independent, prompt and transparent investigation into all allegations of serious human rights violations," they said, citing possible abuses before, during and after the election.

(Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis in Geneva)