U.S. Lifts Ban on Belarus Leader’s Travel
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States followed the lead of 14 European countries and lifted a travel ban imposed last November on the president and seven top ministers of Belarus over alleged human rights violations in the former Soviet republic.
The State Department’s deputy spokesman, Philip T. Reeker, said the United States and the European Union remained seriously concerned about the continuing deterioration of democracy in Belarus and its failure to fulfill international commitments.
``The United States and the European Union consider the flawed conduct of local elections on March 2 and the arrest and imprisonment of several participants in the recent peaceful demonstrations in Minsk as further setbacks,″ Reeker said Monday in a statement.
But, Reeker said, the travel ban was lifted in response to Belarus’ cooperation in establishing an office in Minsk for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The OSCE checks into human rights records across Europe.
In Minsk, opposition leaders criticized the lifting of the travel ban. President Alexander Lukashenko ``will feel that he can act with impunity,″ Belarusian National Front leader Vincuk Viachorka said.
Government authorities welcomed the move, though. ``This decision should be seen as a logical movement toward constructive dialogue between our countries,″ said Natalya Petkevich, a spokeswoman for Lukashenko.