WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Monday slapped new sanctions on Belarus in response to its "brutal crackdown" in the wake of the presidential election in December, the U.S. State Department said.
Department spokesman Philip Crowley said that the measures came as a result of "the disproportionate use" of force and initial detentions of hundreds of demonstrators by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his government; charging of five opposition presidential candidates; ongoing raids against civil society, media and political parties; the closure of the Organization for Security and Cooperation office in Minsk and a " flawed vote count."
He said in a statement that the U.S. is revoking the general license that had temporarily authorized U.S. persons to engage in transactions with two subsidiaries of Belarus's largest state- owned petroleum and chemical conglomerate, Belneftekhim.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is significantly expanding the list of Belarusian officials subject to travel restrictions. "We will enforce those restrictions to prevent the entry into the United States of individuals (and their family members) who are responsible for actions or policies related to the crackdown that began December 19," Crowley said.
In addition, the United States is working to impose financial sanctions against additional Belarusian individuals and entities, he said.
"The United States is closely coordinating its response to the crackdown in Belarus with the European Union and other partners," the spokesman said. "In this regard, we welcome today's decision of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council to impose travel restrictions and an asset freeze, and strengthen its support to civil society."
He said the U.S. continues to, among others, seek the immediate release of all detainees and the dropping of all charges associated with the crackdown, and will review and adjust its policies based on subsequent actions by the Belarusian government.
International observers had voiced different views on Belarus' presidential election on Dec. 19, 2010, with the majority saying the vote was legitimate, free and democratic. Incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won another five-year term by having 79.67 percent of the vote.
Belarus-U.S. relations had cooled following the election of Lukashenko in 1994. The United States accused Belarus of being undemocratic, while Belarus charged Washington with interfering in its internal affairs.
Accusing Belarus of posing a "continuing unusual and extraordinary threat" to U.S. security, President Barack Obama declared in June last year an extension of sanctions on Belarus for an additional year.