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It wouldn't be a state visit if Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi didn't make at least one controversial quip. So on his recent trip to Belarus, Berlusconi was true to form after meeting President Alyaksandr Lukashenka -- although this time he managed to avoid being sexist or racist.

"Thank you and thanks to your people who, I know, love you, as is demonstrated by the election results which everybody can see," Berlusconi told Lukashenka, in power since 1994 and once tagged "Europe's last dictator" by the George W. Bush administration.

Belarus's elections have regularly been criticized as being neither free nor fair and in March 2006 Lukashenka won a whopping 83 percent of the vote.

Later that year, Lukashenka -- cavalier to the end -- joked that he had actually won a greater share of the vote, but he had reduced it to a more acceptable "European" figure.

In the cartoon above, from our Belarus Service's De Les, Lukashenka offers Berlusconi some Belarusian spaghetti along with a glass of "Dialogue wine."

As one reader suggested, the cartoon should be captioned: "He swallowed it down."

-- Belarus Service/Luke Allnutt

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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