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EU Reacts Coolly To Lukashenka 'Roundtable' Proposal

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is under increasing pressure.
BRUSSELS -- The European Union has reacted coolly to a proposal by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for roundtable talks between the government and the opposition.

Lukashenka made the proposal on August 29, saying it was necessary to improve the situation in the country, which is mired in a deep economic crisis.

European Commission spokesman John Clancy told RFE/RL that the EU hoped Lukashenka's initiative was a positive sign.

But he added, "Any serious political dialogue between the government and the political opposition in Belarus on the situation in the country would necessitate the release and the rehabilitation of all political prisoners."

Meanwhile, foreign ministers of Nordic and Baltic countries jointly called on August 30 for the immediate release of political prisoners in Belarus during a regional summit in Helsinki.

The meeting was hosted by Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, who called developments in Belarus "very worrying."

He said all of the region's representatives -- which also included the foreign ministers of Sweden, Latvia, Iceland, and Estonia, in addition to government representatives from Denmark and Norway -- had agreed that they could not engage Belarus until political prisoners were released.

Dozens of government opponents, including several former presidential candidates, have been jailed for taking part in protests against December's disputed presidential election that returned Lukashenka to power.