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Belarus introduces visa restrictions for U.S. officials

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Belarus has introduced visa restrictions for American officials and simplified visa regulations for ordinary U.S. nationals, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
MINSK, August 22 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus has introduced visa restrictions for American officials and simplified visa regulations for ordinary U.S. nationals, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

"In response to visa restrictions against certain Belarusian officials, Belarus is forced to take commensurate measures against a number of American officials," the Belarusian ministry said, without indicating who would be blacklisted.

The ministry said the U.S. is effectively restricting contacts between the two states.

"Belarus has maintained a principled position of openness and mutually respectful dialogue with the U.S. To contribute to the development of interstate contacts, Belarus has unilaterally simplified the entry procedure into the country for Americans traveling for personal and business purposes," the ministry said.

The U.S. State Department decided August 3 to expand the list of Belarusian officials whose entry to the U.S. has been restricted. In particular, the list includes President Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed by Washington as "Europe's last dictator," and his family, the presidential chief of staff, the prosecutor general and other officials.

Last year, the U.S. and the then-25 member EU also imposed an entry ban on Lukashenko and other top Belarusian officials following Lukashenko's landslide victory in a presidential election in March 2006 that international observers and the domestic opposition said was flawed.

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