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Belarus President Pardons Four Opposition Activists

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka

The office of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says the president has pardoned four opposition activists who were sentenced to jail terms for their involvement in protests in December against Lukashenka's reelection.

A spokesman for the presidential press service said the four men had repented and said they "recognized their guilt and the unlawful character of their actions" during the December unrest.

The announcement came as European Union member Bulgaria said Lukashenka has pledged to release all political prisoners in Belarus by the first half of October as part of an apparent effort to improve ties with the EU.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov met with Lukashenka last week in Minsk.

The EU and the United States imposed sanctions against the Lukashenka regime after more than 700 people were detained during the protests against Lukashenka's reelection, and some 50 are believed to be still in jail, including three men who were opposition presidential candidates.

EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the Belarus situation at a two-day meeting opening September 2 in Sopot in northern Poland.

compiled from agency reports