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Belarusian President Rejects Anti-Semitism Charges --> President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (epa) October 27, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has denied charges of anti-Semitism. The presidential press service quoted Lukashenka as saying no one should believe there is anti-Semitism in Belarus, or that Belarusians oppress Muslims.

The statement described such allegations as words from Belarus' enemies.

Lukashenka, talking to a group of Russian journalists on October 12 about the past living conditions of the southeastern town of Babruysk, said, "It was scary to enter, it was a pigsty. That was mainly a Jewish town -- and you know how Jews treat the place where they are living."

Lukashenka's comments were widely criticized. Israeli officials and Jewish organizations within Belarus have condemned his comments, which have raised questions about the rise of anti-Semitism in Belarus.

Israeli Ambassador to Belarus Zeev Ben-Ari told RFE/RL's Belarus Service on October 22 that Lukashenka was drawing on an old, derogatory anti-Semitic stereotype. Lukashenka's speech "alluded to the myth that I thought had died, at least among the progressive part of humanity," Ben-Ari said. "This myth sees the Jews as untidy and dirty people who smell bad -- and is undoubtedly anti-Semitic."

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in a statement that "the role of leadership is to fight anti-Semitism wherever it raises its ugly head, all over the world, not to encourage it."

The United States and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have also criticized Lukashenka's statements.

The U.S. Embassy in Minsk also told RFE/RL's Belarus Service on October 23 that the United States has asked Lukashenka to retract his remarks.

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