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Obama renews sanctions on Belarus

16 june 2011, 14:44
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday extended sanctions on Belarus over its violent suppression of protests and arrest of opposition figures in the wake of December's disputed elections, AFP reports.

"The government of Belarus has taken steps backward in the development of democratic governance and respect for human rights," Obama said in a presidential decree.

He singled out the government's "harsh violence" against protesters, its imprisonment of several opposition leaders and its "continuing repression" of independent media and civil society following the December 2010 vote.

"The actions and policies of the Government of Belarus and other persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

He ordered that sanctions adopted on June 16, 2006 by then-president George W. Bush continue beyond their expiration on Thursday.

Last month Obama condemned the sentencing of two former opposition presidential candidates in Belarus and vowed to pursue new sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko's government.

The two were convicted for their role in organizing a rally by tens of thousands of people in December against the election, which handed Lukashenko a landslide victory and was condemned as unfair by European observers.

Lukashenko, in charge of the ex-Soviet state since 1994, has launched a series of crackdowns against the opposition over the years.

The European Union has placed travel bans on and frozen the assets of some 188 individuals, including people from Lukashenko's inner circle and several judges that have issued sentences in the recent trials.

Washington has also frozen the assets of a number of top officials, and in January vowed to "significantly expand" the number of Minsk officials banned from traveling to the United States.

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