TMCnet News

Britain urges Belarus to hold fair vote
[September 17, 2008]

Britain urges Belarus to hold fair vote

(Associated Press WorldStream Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) MINSK, Belarus_The British ambassador to Belarus said Wednesday the European Union may ease its sanctions against the ex-Soviet nation if it holds fair parliamentary elections.

Nigel Gould-Davies urged the Belarusian government to include opposition representatives in local election commissions and take other moves to ensure a fair vote on Sept. 28.

"There is a real possibility for a breakthrough in Belarus-EU relations if a fair election is held," Gould-Davies told reporters.

The United States and the European Union have imposed economic sanctions on the country and a travel ban on Belarus authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko and his officials. They urged Lukashenko's government to end its crackdown on dissent and free speech as a condition for improving ties.

Lukashenko, dubbed "Europe's last dictator" in the West, has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for more than 14 years, quashing dissent and opposition parties and shutting down independent news media.

Lukashenko's isolation deepened this year when his nation's main sponsor and ally, Russia, sharply increased energy prices for Belarus.

Signaling an apparent desire to mend the rift with the West, Lukashenko has recently softened his anti-Western rhetoric and Belarusian authorities last month freed the last remaining political prisoners whose release the West had demanded.

The U.S. suspended some economic sanctions against Belarus following the opposition activists' release.

Belarus' western neighbor, Poland, has urged other EU countries to reward Belarus' recent moves by relaxing some sanctions. But most EU nations want to wait until after the elections to assess whether ties can be rebuilt.

EU foreign ministers appealed to Belarusian authorities Monday to conduct free and fair parliamentary elections, voicing a hope the vote will "mark real progress in respecting international and European standards."

Copyright ? 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

[ Back To's Homepage ]