Aug 2, 2005, 3:23 GMT

Belarus puts foreign adoptions in limbo

MINSK, Belarus (UPI) -- President Aleksandr Lukashenko is cracking down on adoptions of Belarus children by foreigners, calling the practice "a national disgrace."

"Our children should be brought up and educated in Belarus," said Lukashenko. "Adoption by foreigners should be maximally reduced."

The fate of children adopted by U.S. nationals and other foreigners has become a hot topic in Belarus and Russia amid media reports of children being abused or slain by their new parents, as well as by concerns about human trafficking and declining populations, ABC News reported.

Since 1991, when Belarus gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some 1,000 children have been adopted by Americans and another 1,500 by Italians.

"It`s not a small figure, for a small country like Belarus," said Andrei Kozhan, first secretary at the Belarus Embassy in Washington.

Kozhan said the Belarus government has adopted new regulations that give preference to native families seeking adoptions over foreigners and require adoptive parents to report to Belarus authorities on the children`s welfare for five years, instead of three.