E.U. Appeals To Belarus for Fair Elections

By Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium - European Union foreign ministers appealed to Belarusian authorities yesterday to conduct free and fair legislative elections later this month.

The 27-nation union is making the conduct of the September 28 parliamentary vote a test of whether the authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, is serious about democratic reforms. Mr. Lukashenko released two political prisoners from jail last month.

The ministers said the conduct of the vote "is another opportunity for Belarus to show its respect for democratic values."

"It is hoped that these elections will ... mark real progress in respecting international and European standards," the 27 foreign ministers said in a statement.

Poland has called on other European Union countries to reward Belarus's recent moves by relaxing some sanctions. But most E.U. nations want to wait until after the elections to assess whether enough progress has been made to rebuild ties with Belarus.

The E.U. external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said the European Union was eager to rebuild ties with Belarus. She said E.U. ministers considered the release of the prisoners "a significant step."



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