Merkel's number two to criticize Belarus leader in Minsk (Extra)

Berlin - Chancellor Angela Merkel's top assistant, Ronald Pofalla, is set to give a speech in the Belarus capital Minsk that is likely to bluntly criticize the former Soviet republic's authoritarian government, a Berlin organizer said Tuesday.

Pofalla, who is head of the chancellor's office and a full cabinet minister, is to give the opening address Wednesday at the Minsk Forum, an event started in 1997 which enables government officials and civic groups to meet and talk.

He will arrive in Minsk just one day after German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle's meeting there with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. No German minister has ever opened the Minsk Forum in person before.

Folkert Garbe, project coordinator for the Minsk Forum, told the German Press Agency dpa in Berlin he expected a 'robust' appeal for democratic reforms from Pofalla, who supported Belarus opposition groups before he joined Merkel's office.

Rainer Lindner, chairman of the Minsk Forum, suggested a German diplomatic offensive was under way to engage Belarus with the European Union.


Authors: Kristina Dunz, Jean-Baptiste Piggin


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