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Belarus: EU Criticizes Rights Violations

Brussels, 16 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers have issued a strongly worded statement criticizing Belarus for "allowing recurrent violations of human rights," and for what they describe as an "obstructive" attitude to relations with the EU. Last night's statement announces several measures to restrict contact, and also aid programs for Belarus.

A RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reports the EU statement emerged at the end of the day, although it had been prepared and agreed in advance. It was also the only major decision of the day on which there was no official comment by EU officials.

Observers in Brussels tell our correspondent that this somewhat unusual circumstance suggests Russia, and perhaps other countries, had exerted influence to try to restrain the EU's criticism of Belarus. Resultingly, the observers say the EU issued its prepared statement, but did little, if anything, to publicize it.

Our correspondent reports the apparent EU strategy is to try to minimize the chances for what is seen as a counter-productive reaction from Belarus' President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.