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Belarus leader accuses EU of pandering to U.S.

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday he wants better ties with the European Union, but cannot accept the bloc's unquestioning obedience to the United States.
MINSK, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday he wants better ties with the European Union, but cannot accept the bloc's unquestioning obedience to the United States.

"Speaking about relations between Belarus and the EU, frankly speaking I would like them to be better," the hardline leader of the ex-Soviet country said in an interview with Austria's APA agency. "But we cannot accept it when the EU dances to the tune of the U.S."

"We do not like it when European politicians portray themselves as independent, but line themselves up behind the U.S. when serious issues are at stake," Lukashenko said.

Both the U.S. and the EU have accused the Belarusian leader of clamping down on dissent, stifling the media and rigging elections. Lukashenko, who was re-elected to a third term in 2006, is currently blacklisted, along with other senior Belarusian officials, from entering the U.S. and the EU.

The statement came after Lukashenko expelled the U.S. ambassador and recalled the Belarusian ambassador from the United States earlier this month over new sanctions against Belarus's national petrochemical company, Belneftekhim.

Earlier today Belarus's foreign ministry advised the U.S. to halve the number of its diplomats in Minsk, citing the Vienna Convention-stipulated parity in the diplomatic presence of countries.

"We believe this step would be logical. There are no top level visits and economic contacts have been reduced," the ministry said.

The U.S. Embassy in Minsk said in a consular notice posted on its website on Wednesday that it had suspended visa services for Belarusian nationals.

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