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Lukashenka Says West 'Strangling' Belarus

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka today accused the West of trying to "strangle" his country as it struggles through its economic crisis.

His remarks come as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has refused Minsk's 4.4-billion euro request that could fill the country's gaping budget deficit.

The IMF says is refusing the assistance until Belarus takes steps to reform its highly centralized economy.

The European Union and the United States have also placed sanctions on Lukashenka's regime for its postelection arrest of opposition members.

Lukashenka today said that IMF negotiators are "demanding that we free political prisoners" and added "[IMF officials] are economists and financiers. What do they know?"

He said while he is willing to appease the West in some regards, "What democracy can we be talking about when they use the very moment we develop problems on our currency market to try to strangle us?"

Lukashenka also said he has no intention of entering into negotiations with the country's opposition.

compiled from agency reports