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Belarus: U.S. Lawmakers To Bring Harsh Message To Lukashenka

Washington, 15 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Three members of the U.S. Congress will be visiting Belarus on 16 February to tell President Alyaksandr Lukashenka that Washington will not take his government seriously until it begins acting responsibly. An aide to Congressman Jim Saxton (R-New Jersey) told RFE/RL that he and two other members of the House of Representatives will tell Lukashenka that the U.S. disapproves of some of Belarus' sales of arms.

Some reports say customers include Libya and Iraq. The congressmen also will express their dismay over October's much-criticized presidential election.

The congressmen accompanying Saxton are Ron Lewis (R-Kentucky) and Bernard Sanders (Independent-Vermont).

The Saxton aide -- who asked that he not be named -- said the congressmen originally planned to stay in Minsk for several days, but finally decided that such a long visit would lend legitimacy to Lukashenka. The aide said they will be in the Belarusian capital for only a few hours.