Russia urges US to review sanctions against Belarus

March 22nd, 2008 - 2:39 pm ICT by admin  

RIA Novosti
Minsk (Belarus), March 22 (RIA Novosti) Russia’s prime minister has said that Moscow regards US sanctions against Belarus as political and urged Washington to review them. Washington imposed sanctions in November against Belarus’s national petrochemical company Belneftekhim, freezing the company’s assets under US jurisdiction.

“We discussed today the US administration’s decision to extend sanctions against Belarus’s national petrochemical company Belneftekhim. Russia believes the step is political,” Viktor Zubkov said Friday.

“We are calling on Washington to review its policy toward Belarus and its businesses.” Zubkov, on a visit to Minsk, said Washington continues to pressurise Belarus despite “positive steps by the Belarusian leadership, such as the gradual development of a market economy”.

Washington, which has dubbed the ex-Soviet state as “Europe’s last dictatorship”, also banned all dealings between Americans and Belneftekhim over Minsk’s refusal to release political prisoners.

Belarus said the sanctions breached a bilateral trade deal, designed to give better access for Belarusian goods and services, as well as a “memorandum of security assurances” the countries signed after Belarus agreed to be a non-nuclear state.

The Belarusian foreign ministry recalled its ambassador earlier this month for consultations and demanded that the US cut by half the number of staff at its embassy in Belarus.

The US and the European Union have accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of clamping down on dissent, stifling the media and rigging elections.

Lukashenko, who was re-elected to a third term in 2006, and other senior Belarusian officials have been blacklisted from entering the US and EU.

Lukashenko said Belarus’ economic ties with Venezuela caused the US sanctions.

In December, a joint Belarusian-Venezuelan oil production company was established there, with plans to produce about 7 million tonnes (51.45 million bbl) of oil annually, 40 percent will go to Belarus and 60 percent to Venezuela.
RIA Novosti

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