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MINSK, April 25, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A senior U.S. official says relations between the United States and Belarus can improve only if Minsk releases political prisoners and allows opposition groups to operate freely, RFE/RL's Belarus service reports.
Speaking at a press conference in Minsk, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs David Kramer said that without such steps "relations could deteriorate."
"Under the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed, we have additional steps we can take to increase the pressure on the government," Kramer said. "I hope that won't be necessary. But the ball is in the court of the government of Belarus."
Kramer arrived in Minsk on April 23 for a three-day visit.
In his annual speech to the legislature, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on April 24 that he favored normalizing relations with the United States.