By DESMOND BUTLER
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- The United States and the European Union are criticizing the Belarus (BEHL'-uh-roos) government's decision to close the local office of a major security organization that criticized its elections last month.
In a statement, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton said they regretted the decision by Belarus authorities to halt the work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's in that country. The statement also called on Belarus to release presidential candidates and others detained after the elections.
The OSCE's election observers accused President Alexander Lukashenko (loo-kuh-SHENG'-koh) of using fraudulent counting in the Dec. 19 election to win almost 80 percent of the vote. The organization also condemned the violent dispersal of a protest rally by riot police after polls closed.