EU ministers to discuss relations with Belarus in January

EU foreign ministers will discuss in January the union's future relations with Belarus in the wake of recent presidential elections in the former Soviet state, European Commission spokeswoman Maya Kocijancic said on Monday.

Thousands of Belarusians were brutally dispersed in clashes with Interior Ministry troops late on Sunday when opposition protestors tried to storm the parliament after preliminary results showed strongman Alexander Lukashenko had won his fourth consecutive term as president.

At least seven election candidates and hundreds of opposition demonstrators were arrested.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Monday that presidential elections on December 19 were marred by a "flawed" vote count, while EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton called for the authorities to release those arrested.

Russia's official response is still pending, although the CIS monitoring mission called the elections "democratic."

Lukashenko remained characteristically defiant in his post-election comments, dismissing the OSCE's criticism.

The situation around the election could seriously complicate Lukashenko's further maneuvers between Russia and the West.

The EU Council recently extended until October 31, 2011 an existing ban on entry to the EU on 41 representatives of the Belarusian government, although they suspended the application of the ban for 36 of the same officials, including President Lukashenko.

BRUSSELS, December 20 (RIA Novosti)


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