Westerwelle urges free elections in Belarus

Minsk/Vilnius - Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned Belarus Tuesday that further progress in its relations with the European Union depended on democratic reforms.

In the first visit to Belarus by a German foreign minister in 15 years, Westerwelle demanded that next month's presidential elections were free and fair.

Westerwelle was due to meet President Alexander Lukashenko, widely dubbed as 'Europe's last dictator' by human rights organisations. The country is also the last remaining EU state to use the death penalty.

Lukashenko is hoping to be re-elected on December 19th.

'An approach to the EU by Belarus will only be met if legal standards are met' Westerwelle said, during a stopover in Vilnius, Lithuania, ahead of arriving in Minsk.

'The upcoming presidential election is a good opportunity to demonstrate this,' he added.

Westerwelle is to make a point of meeting with the other presidential candidates during his trip.

Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. In the last election, in 2006, he scored 83 per cent of the vote.


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