BRUSSELS, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - European Parliament members have objected to plans to invite the president of Belarus to a summit of EU and ex-Soviet states, citing his failure to end human rights violations, a spokesman said on Friday.
The EU has been seeking to mend ties with Belarus, and earlier this month prolonged the suspension of a travel ban that had been imposed on President Alexander Lukashenko. At the last EU summit, on March 19-20 in Brussels, Belarus was included in the EU's Eastern Partnership project with ex-Soviet republics.
However, the European Parliament spokesman told RIA Novosti that during a plenary session in Strasbourg, the majority of members spoke out against inviting Lukashenko to the May 7 Eastern Partnership summit in Prague.
The Eastern Partnership project, which aims to improve human rights and rule of law in former Soviet states, and to strengthen their ties with the EU, also includes Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The ban on Alexander Lukashenko entering EU countries was imposed in 2006 in protest against election fraud and human rights violations. However, the 27-nation bloc suspended the ban last October, after several political prisoners were freed in Belarus.
Opposition protests held in the Belarusian capital on Wednesday attracted attention for the unusual restraint shown by the city's riot police. Previous protests in Minsk have resulted in mass arrests and beatings.
However, one rights group said several activists had been arrested before the start of the rally, which went ahead in central Minsk despite official instructions to gather in a park outside the center.