The Canadian Press By The Associated Press
LONDON - Britain and Germany called Friday for harsh sanctions against the regime of Belarusia's President Alexander Lukashenko, saying the European Union must act against a "serious crisis in the European neighbourhood."
In a joint editorial, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague and his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle described Lukashenko's crackdown on the opposition and civil liberties as "ruthless and systematic."
Lukashenko was re-elected in a Dec. 19 presidential election with nearly 80 per cent of the vote, in a poll widely regarded as fraudulent. His regime has since cracked down on the opposition, including jailing hundreds of opposition protesters and seven candidates who ran against him.
The two ministers warned they will urge tough EU sanctions against Belarus at a summit of European foreign ministers next week.
"President Lukashenko has made his choice and we have no choice but to respond accordingly," they wrote.
The editorial, published in The Wall Street Journal and German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, followed a similar call from the Czech Republic on Thursday.
The EU had threatened to re-impose travel restrictions on Lukashenko and other top officials over the flawed presidential election and subsequent crackdown if 30 opposition activists, including four presidential candidates, are not released.
Lukashenko has ordered his government to prepare harsh retaliatory measures if the sanctions are applied.