European Union foreign ministers have imposed an asset freeze and visa ban on Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and other top officials in response to a crackdown on the opposition after December's election.
The European Union reinstated an earlier visa ban and asset freeze on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and 156 other key officials on Monday in response to a violent crackdown on protesters after last month's flawed election.
Lukashenko, in power for 16 years, was re-elected with 80 percent of the vote in December in a ballot that was denounced as fraudulent by the opposition and which saw rival candidates arrested.
The EU, however, stopped short of implementing broader economic sanctions, as called for by Sweden and Poland, because other member states did not want ordinary people in Belarus to suffer.
The decision came after Belarus threatened reprisals, notably to curtail gas supplies, should the suspended sanctions be extended. After the EU announcement, Belarus said it would take "proportional" measures against the European Union.
US joins sanctions move
The United States, meanwhile, said it would go a step further on Monday and imposed new financial sanctions and travel restrictions on Belarus. Washington said the new measures included revoking the temporary authorization for business deals with the state-owned Belarus petroleum and chemical conglomerate, Belneftekhim.
The EU sanctions fall short of wider measures demanded by the European Parliament 10 days ago, calling for a freeze in financial aid from the International Monetary Fund, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Brussels also did not want to cut all contact with Minsk and has therefore left Foreign Minister Sergei Martinov and Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Semashko off the sanctions list.
One diplomat was quoted as saying that "we want to leave some channels open, and among the bad guys in Belarus, the foreign minister is not the worst one."
Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Nicole Goebel