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Belarus deepens self-isolation: US

29 February 2012, 10:41 CET
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(WASHINGTON) - The United States warned Tuesday that Belarus was worsening its own isolation after Minsk decided to expel two European Union diplomats in retaliation for new sanctions imposed by the bloc over the country's rights record.

Minsk said Tuesday that the ambassador of Poland -- which led the drive for fresh EU sanctions against Belarus -- and the EU's envoy should leave the country.

The ex-Soviet republic also recalled its own ambassadors to Poland and the European Union, one day after a fresh raft of sanctions against Belarusian officials over President Alexander Lukashenko's abysmal rights record.

"The United States notes with deep regret the government of Belarus' decision to request that the EU head of delegation and Polish ambassador to Belarus return to their capitals for consultations, while simultaneously recalling its permanent representative in Brussels and ambassador in Warsaw," acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

"These actions, like the expulsion of the US ambassador to Belarus in 2008 and the closure of the OSCE office in Minsk in March 2011, are only deepening Belarus' self-isolation," Toner stressed.

European affairs ministers on Monday agreed to an assets freeze and visa ban against 21 senior Belarusian officials -- 19 magistrates and two highly placed police officers -- who were deemed involved in moves to stifle the opposition.

"The United States stands with our partners, and joins them in calling on Belarus to end its repression of civil society and the democratic opposition," Toner added.

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