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Council Of Europe Says Russia Essential For Belarus Dialogue --> The EU has imposed travel sanctions and frozen the European assets of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (file photo) (RFE/RL) May 31, 2006 -- A top Council of Europe (COE) official says the organization needs Russia's support in its efforts to resume dialogue with Belarus.

Rene van der Linden, the head of the COE's Parliamentary Assembly, made the comment in Tallinn, Estonia, today in an interview with the Associated Press.

He said there is no solution possible for Belarus without Russia.

Belarus has faced international isolation since its authoritarian leader President Alyaksandr Lukashenka was reelected to a third term in March polls, which were condemned as fraudulent by the opposition and Western countries.

The former Soviet nation has been slapped with European Union and U.S. sanctions. Lukashenka and other key government figures also face the seizure of their assets and a travel ban.

The EU Watches Minsk

Belarusian students studying at an EU-funded university in Vilnius, Lithuania

WATCHING AND WAITING: The European Union repeatedly urged Minsk to conduct a fair and democratic presidential election on March 19. The EU external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said in a statement today that the recent arrests of Belarusian opposition figures are "unacceptable" campaign violations. Ferrero-Waldner repeated an EU threat of "targeted sanctions" against top Belarusian officials if the elections are not free and fair. However, the EU will withhold final judgment until March 20, when the bloc's foreign ministers meet in Brussels....(more)

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Click on the image to view a dedicated page with news, analysis, and background information about the Belarusian presidential ballot.

MEET THE CANDIDATES: Read brief biographies of the four candidates in the March 19 election.

Click on the image to view RFE/RL's coverage of the election campaign in Belarusian and to listen to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service.