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EU imposes visa ban on Belarus leaders

Feb. 1, 2011 at 11:44 PM

BRUSSELS, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- European Union foreign ministers have voted to impose a visa ban on Belarus President Aleksander Lukashenko and 157 other top officials.

After Monday's meeting, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said Belarus could face additional sanctions, the EUobserver reported. He told reporters that Catherine Ashton, the union's foreign affairs chief, has been given the authority "to use narrowly-targeted but effective sanctions against people, institutions and Belarusian companies that either allow themselves to be used for repression or which give backing to the regime."

While some countries, led by Poland and Sweden, would like to put maximum pressure on Belarus, Sikorski said there is "no consensus" within the EU to use sanctions against the entire country. Ashton said the European Union will "revisit" the sanctions issue if Belarus does not release political prisoners quickly.

Before the foreign ministers' meeting, Belarus released seven prisoners to house arrest. The move was apparently aimed at placating the EU but had little effect.

"I deplore the conditions in which they were released and that some of them were placed under house arrest with KGB agents monitoring their every move," Jerzy Buzek, head of the European Parliament, said.

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