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Belarus to UN:Sanctions Harmful For All09/27 11:05

   

   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Belarus' foreign minister warned Western nations 
Saturday against imposing sanctions over the country's disputed presidential 
election and crackdown on protesters, saying their expressions of concern are 
"nothing but attempts to bring chaos and anarchy to our country."

   With the European Union and Britain contemplating sanctions, Belarusian 
Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei told the virtual U.N. General Assembly meeting 
of world leaders that "interference in our internal affairs, sanctions and 
other restrictions on Belarus will have the opposite effect and are harmful for 
absolutely everyone."

   "We call on our partners to demonstrate wisdom, restraint and impartiality," 
he said in a pre-recorded speech for the U.N. session held online because of 
the coronavirus pandemic.

   Makei's speech was played hours after the latest in a series of large 
protests in Belarus over the Aug. 9 re-election of President Alexander 
Lukashenko, which his opponents say was rigged. The authoritarian leader 
further angered opponents this week by taking the oath of office for a new term 
in an unexpected and secretive ceremony.

   The demonstrations are by far the largest and most persistent in Belarus 
since its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. Makei's remarks to 
the international community, which included saying "the people made their 
choice" in the election, could fuel further protests Sunday. The rallies are 
typically largest on Sundays, sometimes drawing crowds of up to 200,000 people.

   In the first three days of demonstrations in August, police used tear gas, 
truncheons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds. Several protesters died, many 
were injured and around 6,000 were detained.

   Amid international outrage over the crackdown, Belarusian authorities 
switched to prosecuting top activists. Many members of the Coordination 
Council, a group that the opposition formed to push for a transition of power, 
have been arrested or forced to leave the country.

   Last week, the U.N.'s Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling for 
an investigation into possible human rights violations by Lukashenko's 
government, with a report to come by the end of the year.

   The United States and the European Union have questioned the election and 
criticized the police actions toward peaceful protesters. The EU is pondering 
sanctions for top Belarusian officials, but it failed to agree on imposing them 
this week and plans to continue discussions in the coming week. Meanwhile, 
Britain said Thursday it was working on sanctions and also was in discussions 
with the U.S. and Canada.

   EU Council President Charles Michel told the General Assembly on Friday in 
his own video speech that "repression and intimidation must stop" and those 
responsible must be held accountable.

   "We stand with the Belarusian people who must be free, without any external 
coercion, to choose their own future," Michel said, calling for inclusive 
national dialogue facilitated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation 
in Europe.

   Lukashenko has bristled at suggestions of starting a dialogue with the 
opposition and has cast the protests as part of a Western plot to isolate 
Russia, Belarus' his main sponsor and ally.

   Makei said the situation in Belarus "indeed has become complex," but he 
dismissed Western countries' complaints as meddling "statements brimming with 
cynicism."

   "In actual fact, they are nothing but attempts to bring chaos and anarchy to 
our country to make Belarus lose many years of development," the foreign 
minister said.

 
 
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