Belarus president threatens to cut relations with West

Submitted by Mohit Joshi

Moscow/Minsk - Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko threatened Saturday to place relations with the West on ice if it declares next week's parliamentary elections undemocratic.

If there is no recognition of the elections "we will stop talking to them," the president told the news agency Interfax.

Lukashenko, criticized by human rights groups in his homeland as "Europe's last dictator," said Belarus had strictly adhered to the guidelines laid down by the West in preparing the elections.

Sections of the Belarus opposition have threatened to boycott the September 28 vote because of the president's authoritarian style of leadership and lack of press freedom and free speech.

Lukaschenko denounced the Belarus opposition as "unemployed rowdies," who had no chance of being elected. He said campaigning for the election had proceeded smoothly, a sign of "the healthy state of society" in the country.

Hundreds of foreign observers will be monitoring the polls. Experts from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will give their verdict on whether they are free and fair. (dpa)



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