by Andrey Makhovsky
Belarus declared Friday that Europe's top rights watchdog would no longer be able to work there, after it criticized this month's presidential election and condemned a police crackdown on opposition demonstrators.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had described the December 19 vote as "flawed" and accused police of heavy-handed tactics after they beat and arrested protesters and rounded up opposition candidates.
The election handed a fourth term to President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been accused by Western leaders of dictatorial rule and suppressing independent media.
"The Belarussian side has taken the decision not to continue the operations of the OSCE office in Minsk," said foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh.
"The evaluation of the OSCE's activities in Minsk shows that the OSCE has fulfilled its mandate," he added.
Under Belarussian law, the government can revoke the OSCE's permit or refuse to renew it.