Belarusia's Lukashenko denies leaning West due to IMF loan

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday denied allegations he had "changed" his political "orientation" for the pro-Western, but said the International Monetary Fund is more generous than Russia.

"Russia has not provided us the promised loan, which we needed," Lukashenko said at the meeting with heads of CIS state-run news agencies.

"[Then] the IMF arrived and laid down terms, which we agreed to. They have already allocated almost $3 billion instead of the $500 million, which Russia has not transferred," he said, adding Belarus is expecting to receive a new $800 million tranche from the IMF in the near future.

"Because of gas, oil disputes, these wars,' we were forced to seek wealth in other parts of the planet - in Iran, Venezuela," Lukashenko said.

He said Belarus had extracted one million tons of oil in Venezuela over the past year.

"We failed to agree with Russia so that we could develop oil and gas fields there," the president went on. "While there [in Venezuela] we were not just provided with new fields but they also gave us three or four of their [own] fields."

However, the president said he has not turned away from Russia to the West.

"It is just absurd, unconfirmed allegations. I did not go anywhere, we designed our own foreign multiple-vector policy," he said.

"Do not bother me by saying that I have changed my [political] orientation, as Russian papers say. I changed nothing," the president said, adding: "I am ready to be friends, to cooperate [with Russia], but I have the state, the people, whom I am responsible for."

President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday Russia had lent Belarus over $3 billion over the past two-and-a-half years, adding "we do not issue such loans to anyone else."

Medvedev said the price Belarus will have to pay for Russian gas in 2010 is 30-40% lower, if compared with the price set for her neighboring countries.

The Russian president also said Moscow wants to build a closer union with Belarus, but has not invited the country to become part of Russia. He denied that Russia has sought to influence Belarusian politics.

MINSK, November 24 (RIA Novosti)


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