Belarus President Threatens To Break Off Talks With West Over Vote

MINSK (AFP)--Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko threatened Saturday to break off all dialogue with the West if it fails to recognize a September parliamentary vote as democratic, his press service said.

"If the West does not recognize the results of parliamentary elections even this time around and they turn out to be undemocratic in Western politicians' view, Belarussian authorities will break off all talks with them," Lukashenko said of the poll due Sept. 28.

"I have already said in my interview to the Western (media) that we are holding these elections not only according to our constitution and laws, those will be democratic without precedent, (but also) elections by the West's rules," Lukashenko said as quoted by his press service.

Lukashenko said Western politicians have misjudged the popular mood in his country.

"If we had the kind of problems we used to, when we lacked for meat and bread and salaries were less than $20, then yes, popular mood would have been steaming," he added during a visit to a harvest festival in the western Vitebsk region.

"Not all issues are resolved, but people see that they are being tackled, and so they trust this regime," he said.

The European Union's foreign ministers announced Monday that they were ready to reconsider sanctions against Belarus if the parliamentary vote met democratic standards.

The U.S. also suggested lifting sanctions if the elections were held in good order.

Earlier this week, Lukashenko, whom Washington dubbed Europe's last dictator, assured that his country did not wish to be cut off by an "iron curtain" from the rest of Europe, and voiced his hope that the vote would be recognized in the West.



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