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EU threatens Belarus with sanctions

MINSK, Belarus, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- European leaders said Wednesday Belarus could face stiff sanctions if dissidents arrested after the disputed election remain in prison.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's equivalent of a foreign minister, told Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov at a meeting in Brussels that "appropriate measures" will be taken if the crackdown continues, The New York Times reported. They could include a travel ban for Belarusian leaders.

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Before the election, the EU had tried offering incentives to President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament, held a meeting in Brussels with opposition members. He said the EU should ease visa requirements for Belarusian citizens who want to visit the west and provide scholarships for students.

One former presidential candidate, Andrei Sannikov, was threatened Wednesday with loss of his son. Sannikov and his wife, Irina Khalip, were arrested during a protest after the election and remain in prison.

Officers with the security services searched their home and the apartment where Khalip's mother has been caring for the boy. Relatives say officials have said the boy could become a ward of the state if his grandmother is found to be an unfit guardian.

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