EU urges Belarus cooperation with observer mission

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission on Monday urged Belarus to cooperate with international election observers, after loyalists of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko won every seat in parliament.

"It is essential that the (Election Observation Mission) is allowed full access to the remaining stages of the elections and we will study carefully the EOM's final report," EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner said.

Results of Sunday's legislative elections indicated that all 110 seats in the lower house of parliament would go to allies of Lukashenko, who has been labelled "Europe's last dictator" by the United States.

But in its appraisal of the vote, elections watchdog the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said there had been "falsification" and a lack of transparency during the vote count.

The EU announced this month that it is ready to reconsider sanctions against Belarus if the parliamentary vote meets democratic standards, while the United States has also suggested it could lift its sanctions.

"It is important now for the EU to reflect on how best we can engage with Belarus, its government and people," Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement.

"This engagement should include ways of strengthening respect for democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights in accordance with Belarus' international commitments."

Forty Belarussian figures, including Lukashenko, have been banned from entering the EU since a 2006 presidential election which was judged not to comply with international norms.

Several European officials want to hold out a hand to Belarus while the country is coming under increasing pressure from Russia to join it in recognising the Georgian rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.



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