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(RFE/RL) May 16, 2007 -- Belarus's opposition says authorities have granted it permission to hold a congress in Minsk on May 26-27.

The Minsk City Executive Committee has given permission to the opposition to hold its second Congress of Pro-Democratic Forces at the Culture Palace of the Minsk Automotive Factory (MAZ).

The MAZ administration earlier refused to provide its premises for the congress, explaining that the building would be hosting a festival of art by disabled children and youth on May 26 and 27.

The United States has said Belarus must allow the opposition to operate freely and release political prisoners if it is to avoid new U.S. sanctions.

During a visit to Belarus last month, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs David Kramer said Washington could extend a visa ban on officials or restrict trade with Belarusian firms if its conditions were not met.

(Belapan, Reuters, Interfax)
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