Belarus to strengthen spy agency

2006 The Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus - Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko accused the United States and other Western countries Thursday of trying to undermine the ex-Soviet nation and promised to strengthen the Belarusian spy agency.

"The United States is strengthening its spy agencies and we know whom they are directed against," Lukashenko said at a meeting with heads of spy agencies from several ex-Soviet nations. "So why don't we strengthen our special services?"

He promised to increase funding for the Belarusian agency, which still goes under its Soviet acronym, KGB.

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994 and was re-elected to a third term in a March election that the opposition and Western nations denounced as fraudulent.

Dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the West, Lukashenko has relied on close economic and military ties with neighboring Russia and also sought closer relations with China. He has repeatedly claimed the United States and other Western nations were seeking his ouster.

He accused the West of waging an "information aggression" against ex-Soviet nations.

"Such a war is aimed at achieving a strategic goal of forcefully changing political and economic systems of the state which follow an independent course of development," he said.