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Belarus: U.S. Ambassador Returns

Washington, 30 April 1997 (RFE/RL) The U.S. Ambassador to Belarus, Kenneth Yalowitz, returned to Minsk yesterday about a month after the U.S. called him back to Washington in protest of human rights conditions in the former Soviet Republic.

However, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns told reporters yesterday that Yalowitz's return does not mean that Washington believes that an improvement in the human rights situation, or U.S.-Belarusian relations, is imminent.

Burns says the U.S. believes that the human rights record of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is abysmal. He says Yalowitz will be carrying what Burns called a strong message that the U.S. continues to have serious reservations about the situation in Belarus.

The ambassador came back to Washington on March 25 after repeated complaints from Washington about Lukashenka's turn to what the U.S. called authoritarian rule that included crackdowns on opponents and a move away from economic reforms. Burns says the return of Yalowitz does not signal a return to business as usual.

The spokesman says Yalowitz intends to meet with Belarusians who, Burns says, are interested in democracy and human rights.

Burns did add that the government showed restraint in dealing with the estimated 20,000 people who marched in Minsk over the weekend to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. He said the authorities treatment of the demonstrators last week should be a model for Belarus on how to treat its citizens.