Poland pushes for free elections in Belarus

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle met with the Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on Tuesday as part of an EU-sanctioned mission to urge that elections scheduled for December 19 are free and fair.

The two foreign ministers stressed that democratic elections constitute a vital step in improving Belarus's relations with the European Union.

"From our view of things, the presidential elections will be a litmus test for your commitment to democracy," Mr Westerwelle told the Belorusian leader. President Lukashenka replied that the elections would indeed be democratic and said "You can count the ballots yourself, if you want to."

Mr Sikorski also expressed his wish to see Belarus attain EU membership. "Being a neighbor of Belarus and a member of the European Union, Poland is interested to see Belarus a part of the European family, sharing European values," the Belarusian Telegraph Agency quotes him as saying.

Past elections in the ex-Soviet republic have been heavily criticized by observers for falling below Western standards of fairness.


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