Belarus condemns U.S. for toughening sanctions

Belarus on Tuesday condemned the United States for imposing economic sanctions on it after finding faults in the country's presidential election last December, saying they were futile.

In a statement, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry called the U.S.restrictive measures against Belarus "unreasonable and unjustified," which might again trigger tension and mistrust in developing bilateral relations.

Minsk sees Washington's decision as an open violation of its commitments to refraining from coercive economic measures against the Republic of Belarus, which were recorded in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, the statement said.

Saying that Belarus reserves the right to take proportional reciprocal measures, the Foreign Ministry also said that the country reiterates "its principled interest in maintaining constructive relations" with the United States that meet the interests of both sides.

The United States on Monday slapped new sanctions on Belarus in response to its "brutal crackdown" in the wake of the presidential election last December.

Department Spokesman Philip Crowley said 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 that the U.S. was revoking the general license that had temporarily authorized U.S. persons to engage in transactions with two subsidiaries of Belarus' largest state-owned petroleum and chemical conglomerate, Belneftekhim.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is significantly expanding the list of Belarusian officials subject to travel restrictions.8 The Belarus-U.S. relations have cooled following the election of Lukashenko in 1994. While the United States accused Belarus of being undemocratic, Belarus said the U.S. was interfering in its internal affairs.


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