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    BELARUS GOVERNMENT PROTESTS INVITATION OF OPPOSITION LEADERS TO INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

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    MINSK, FEBRUARY 6, 2004, RIA NOVOSTI - Belarus' Foreign Ministry views the invitation of Opposition leaders to an international conference in Latvia as a testimony to that country's unwillingness to develop a meaningful and mutually respectful dialogue, ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh said at a news briefing Thursday.

    In his words, this is yet another attempt to bring pressure to bear on Belarus.

    On February 6, the Latvian capital of Riga is hosting an international conference entitled "The Future of Democracy Beyond the Baltics." The forum will be held by the Latvian Foreign Ministry.

    According to Savinykh, the forum defies the generally accepted standards for holding international gatherings. The Latvian organizers have invited members of Belarus' Opposition to take part in the event, but not a single government official. In so doing, Latvia violates its commitments to integrating into European and trans-Atlantic alliances, as such integration is impossible without maintaining good-neighborly relations with adjacent countries.

    The Belarusian Foreign Ministry is displeased with the fact that the forum will be attended by government officials of the U.S. and several European nations, the spokesman emphasized.

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