Belarusian President Lukashenka (file photo) (epa)
June 15, 2006 -- Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has urged the European Union to "abandon confrontation" and improve ties strained by visa bans.
EU Ambassador Ian Boag said the EU was always prepared to work with Belarus -- but on condition it accepts the 25-nation's values.
While calling for closer ties, Lukashenka said Belarus will "never submit to diktat, whatever its source."
Both the EU and the United States slapped visa bans on Lukashenka and 30 senior officials to denounce what they said was a rigged presidential election that, in March, returned Lukashenka to a third term. The EU accused Lukashenka also of muzzling opponents, closing down media and denying freedom of assembly.
Belarus imposed a reciprocal ban without saying which EU officials it might affect.
Belarusian students studying at an EU-funded university in Vilnius, Lithuania
WATCHING AND WAITING: The European Union repeatedly urged Minsk to conduct a fair and democratic presidential election on March 19. The EU external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said in a statement today that the recent arrests of Belarusian opposition figures are "unacceptable" campaign violations. Ferrero-Waldner repeated an EU threat of "targeted sanctions" against top Belarusian officials if the elections are not free and fair. However, the EU will withhold final judgment until March 20, when the bloc's foreign ministers meet in Brussels....(more)
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Click on the image to view a dedicated page with news, analysis, and background information about the Belarusian presidential ballot.
MEET THE CANDIDATES: Read brief biographies of the four candidates in the March 19 election.
Click on the image to view RFE/RL's coverage of the election campaign in Belarusian and to listen to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service.