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EU offers Belarus $9 billion for reforms

Sept. 30, 2011 at 3:46 PM

WARSAW, Poland, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- EU leaders offered the president of Belarus $9 billion if he releases political prisoners and holds democratic elections, EUobserver reports.

Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko would not have to step down as part of the deal but would have to hold elections recognized by the European Union and the United States, which would likely lead to his ouster, EUobserver said.

The offer was unveiled by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw Friday at an EU summit with post-Soviet countries.

The $9 billion would come from loans from two EU banks -- the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development -- and from the International Monetary Fund in Washington.

"For the first time, we see a situation in which the EU, very decisively and in a spirit of solidarity, makes help for Belarus conditional on tangible changes," Tusk said. "These are not radical changes. This is the bare minimum that any European person expects."

Lukashenko, however, has not shown interest thus far, EUobserver said.

The publication noted he hasn't sent an ambassador to two dozen EU and post-Soviet leaders in Warsaw.

It's not the first time the EU has offered money for reforms in Belarus. In December, Lukashenko responded to an offer of $3 billion with a major crackdown on opposition.

At the Warsaw summit, EU countries also condemned Belarus repression in a declaration but leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine refused to sign it.

EUobserver reported diplomats said Georgia feared Belarus would take revenge by recognizing breakaway provinces. And Ukraine was concerned about trade problems with neighboring Belarus, EUobserver said.

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