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Clinton Warns Belarus, Syria Over Crackdown On Dissent


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius on July 1.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on leaders in Belarus and Syria to end their government-led crackdown on dissent and implement political reforms.

Belarus has seen increasing protest activity in recent months. Activists say hundreds of people have been jailed, with at least 25 activists arrested as recently as June 29.

Addressing an international democracy conference in Lithuania, Clinton appealed for those imprisoned.

"We demand that Belarus release political prisoners and embark on the path of democratic reform," she said. "Because it seems very sad for the people of Belarus that they stand in such stark contrast to their neighbors, and it reminds us that building a whole and free Europe is still an unfinished task."

"This is an hour of need," she said, referring to the mass uprisings that have shaken the Arab world in recent months. "And every democracy should stand up and be counted."

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, speaking alongside Clinton at the conference on July 1, emphasized that "democracy cannot be exported or imposed from the outside."

Clinton earlier warned that Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad will face "increasingly organized resistance" if he does not end violence against protesters and allow the opposition to meet freely.

Rights activists say 1,400 people have been killed in the unrest in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reiterated that Moscow is against imposing a United Nations resolution on Syria, where protests reportedly were continuing, although the exclusion of foreign reporters make confirmation of such reports difficult.

compiled from agency reports