07:52 GMT +323 February 2019
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    Belarusian FM urges new stage of relations with EU

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    MINSK, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - The Belarusian foreign ministry has called for a new stage in relations with the European Union based on pragmatism and mutual respect, the ministry's spokesman said Tuesday.

    Commenting on the EU Council's decision to prolong sanctions against Belarusian officials responsible for human rights violations in the republic for another year, Andrei Popov said: "The restrictive EU policies against Belarus have grown outdated, [and] there is no building a united Europe that includes 'fences'."

    Popov urged partnership in areas of practical interest to the two countries.

    The EU Council announced Tuesday that it will extend until April 10, 2008 visa and financial sanctions it imposed a year ago on 36 Belarusian officials, including the country's President Alexander Lukashenko.

    The EU said it was putting its relations with Minsk on hold because of human rights violations and restrictions on the political opposition in the republic.

    Nor did the EU recognize the results of the Belarusian presidential election in March 2006, which, along with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), it said did not meet international standards for democratic elections.

    Although Europe has said it is prepared to launch a dialogue with Minsk, it has urged the liberation of all political prisoners and a guarantee of constitutional human rights and freedoms.

    On March 1, the U.S. Treasury announced it would add another six Belarusian officials to the blacklist, which already contains 10 people, including President Alexander Lukashenko.

    The first ban was introduced following the March presidential election.

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