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Belarus Says It Has Talks With U.S. About Better Ties

Alyaksandr Kozulin

Alyaksandr Kozulin

MINSK -- Belarus has discussed improving its ties with the United States with a senior U.S. diplomat, after authorities released the last of what the West calls political prisoners, the Foreign Ministry said.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Merkel arrived in Minsk after the authorities freed in the past week former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Kozulin and two businessmen held since April after protests.

Both the United States and the European Union have banned entry to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, accusing him of rigging his third re-election in 2006, jailing opponents, muzzling the media, and breaking up demonstrations.

They have said the release of what they called political prisoners was a key point before relations could improve.

"During the meeting there was a detailed discussion about the whole spectre of Belarussian-American relations. [They] also discussed ways and methods of improving these relations," a ministry spokesman said.

The statement gave no further details.
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