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Belarus: Eight Ambassadors Leave Over Housing Dispute

Minsk, 22 June 1998 (RFE/RL) - Ambassadors from Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Japan and the United States flew out of Minsk today on a flight bound for Frankfurt/Main, Germany, in protest at what they said was the unacceptable behavior of Belarusian authorities in a dispute over diplomatic housing. The United States and European Union governments have also asked Belarus to withdraw its envoys from their capitals until the issue is resolved to mutual satisfaction.

Belarusian authorities had been harassing diplomats and pressuring them to leave a housing complex outside Minsk because the authorities said it needed to be repaired. But Western governments said Belarus was violating international law on diplomatic facilities. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel today called Belarus's actions "unprecedented in the history of diplomacy."

Russia has also criticized Belarus over the dispute but has decided not to recall its ambassador. The Kremlin has dispatched Boris Berezovsky, who is responsible for relations with other CIS countries, to Minsk today for talks with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.