EU risks 'indulging' Belarus leader: dissidents

(STRASBOURG) - Leading Belarussian dissidents warned the European Union on Tuesday that inviting their hardline President Aleksandr Lukashenko to an EU summit would legitimise repression in the country.

Inviting Lukashenko would show "indulgence of the past 15 years of repression and give him carte blanche for the future," Anatoly Lebedzeko told AFP here on the sidelines of a session of the European Parliament.

Alexander Kozulin, a former Belarus presidential candidate and political prisoner, told AFP "it would be very improper" for Lukashenko to visit Prague for a summit that would coincide with the anniversary of the city's 1968 uprising against communist repression.

During the May 7 summit, European leaders aim to launch a partnership to strengthen ties between the EU and six former Soviet states: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.

The EU has made Lukashenko's participation conditional on an improvement in human rights in the country, which was dubbed "Europe's last dictatorship" by former US president George W. Bush.

"We support the current dialogue between the EU and Belarus, but it is taking place according to Lukashenko's own rules," with the opposition excluded from the process, Lebedzeko said.



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