German chancellor, central European leaders condemn Belarus; want common EU inflation policy

By Karel Janicek

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) - The German Chancellor and counterparts from central European countries condemned President Alexander Lukashenko's Belarus regime at a V4 meeting Tuesday, and called for the immediate release of all political prisoners in the post-Soviet republic.

The prime ministers of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were joined by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov for the meeting marking the 20th anniversary of the group.

All leaders bar Azarov signed a statement demanding Lukashenko "stop political repression and harassment of the opposition, independent media and civil society."

Lukashenko won the Dec. 19 election with nearly 80 percent of the vote, a poll widely regarded as fraudulent. Mass protests were violently dispersed by police, who arrested seven of nine opposition candidates.

The leaders also said they were "deeply concerned" about a significant increase in food, commodity and energy prices and called for a common European Union policy to tackle the problem.

Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radicova said it is not possible for one country alone to solve the issue, with Merkel adding that a common EU position needed to be found.

Slovakia's annual inflation was at 3 percent in January compared with 1.3 percent in December.

The increase is attributed to an increase in energy prices, accommodation, and a higher value added tax. Inflation is also becoming an issue as the country is recovering from a global economic downturn.


Partners: Social Network