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Belarus attacks 'European meddling'
State media accuses several countries of seeking to overthrow president during last month's disputed election.
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2011 16:11 GMT
The re-election of Lukashenko, who has ruled since 1994, led to huge protests and hundreds of arrests [Reuters]

Belarus state media has kept up a barrage of criticism against Western countries, accusing them of seeking to overthrow Alexander Lukashenko, the president, during last month's disputed presidential election.

As police continued a sweep of opposition offices in the wake of unrest in which hundreds of activists were arrested, state-controlled newspapers accused European diplomats of attending a big opposition rally during the election.

"The participation of diplomats in unsanctioned meetings was taken by the crowd as support for their actions and awakened very zealous people to take decisive action," an article, published by several newspapers, said.

It singled out diplomats from Britain, Sweden, Latvia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria.

On Friday, Sovietskaya Belarussia, a pro-Lukashenko newspaper, accused the intelligence services of Germany and Poland of trying to organise a coup during the unrest that accompanied the December 19 election.

Poland and Germany have dismissed the allegations.

'Complete rot'

The re-election of Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, led to huge protests and hundreds of arrests.

Opponents and international observers denounced his landslide win as fraudulent.

Four challengers for the presidency and scores of political activists rounded up last month remain in custody.

State-controlled newspapers said on Saturday that the protests were financed from outside the country.

Western governments have urged Lukashenko to free opposition activists and the US and EU have warned they could reinstate sanctions, including possibly a visa ban on the president and his senior aides.

Germany's human rights commissioner said on Saturday that Belarus must repeat its presidential elections if it is to avoid the sanctions.

Markus Loening, who met opposition figures in Minsk, pressed for the release of activists in talks with Belarussian officials and said allegations of a Western-organised coup were "complete rot".

Loening told a news conference that Belarus was only isolating itself from its neighbours and friends by such actions.

"What I have heard in Minsk exceeds my worst imaginings. It recalls the darkest Soviet times," Loening said.

"The need for sanctions would fall away if repeat elections in Belarus were to be held. And also if the detained were released and officials responsible held to account.

"This regime is isolating Belarus from friends and neighbours."

Homes searched

Since the protests, police have carried out regular searches of homes of journalists and relatives of imprisoned activists.

They have also begun to question owners of mobile phones that were in active use near the scene of the opposition rally in central Minsk on election night.

Belarus has told the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which criticised the police crackdown, to leave the country.

The EU imposed sanctions on Belarus after a disputed ballot in 2006 but suspended their application in 2008 to encourage democratic reforms in the country of 10 million which is a transit route for Russian gas to the EU.

Source:
Agencies
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