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Lukashenko slams Bush for supporting Belarus opposition

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko sharply criticized Friday the U.S. administration for continuing support of the opposition in Belarus and suggested that the U.S. president should deal with his own problems.
MINSK, July 13 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko sharply criticized Friday the U.S. administration for continuing support of the opposition in Belarus and suggested that the U.S. president should deal with his own problems.

"U.S. President George W. Bush should resolve his own problems - Iraq, other hot spots that they [the Americans] created, and pay less attention to the countries where they are attempting to support the opposition," Lukashenko said during a visit to a metallurgy plant in Belarus.

President Bush signed into law January the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act tightening sanctions against Belarus, and reauthorizing funding for independent media and democratic groups opposed to the authoritarian government in the former Soviet republic.

The document authorizes over $27 million in assistance for each fiscal year, 2007 and 2008, for democracy-building operations, such as support for non-governmental organizations, including youth groups, independent trade unions, entrepreneurs, human rights defenders, independent media, democratic political parties, and international exchanges.

Lukashenko, dubbed by Washington as 'Europe's last dictator', said foreign financial assistance to Belarusian NGOs was a form of investment in the country and it had to be legal and transparent.

"These are investments in the country, but they must be legal," the Belarusian leader said, adding that any NGO involved in illegal financial activities would be immediately closed down.

Washington insists that the Belarusian government should release all political prisoners and liberalize the country's restrictive regulations governing freedom of expression and association.

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