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Sunday, June 21, 1998 Published at 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK


World: Europe

Troubled relations with the West

Traffic police block to the road to the compound

The row over the expulsion of foreign ambassadors from a housing complex on the outskirts of the Belarusian capital, Minsk, is the latest in a long line of run-ins between Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Western governments.

In April 1996, Lukashenko asked a number of foreign diplomats to leave the Belarusian capital following their attendance at opposition rallies.

Later that year, he accused the ambassadors of Nato countries of "plotting" against him.

He said a meeting of eight ambassadors in the British Embassy in Minsk had proposed a number of "anti-presidential" moves designed to undermine him in the run-up to a controversial referendum on presidential powers.

"This is our country," Lukashenko said at the time. "This is our state. This is our homeland. We have our own leadership, and we ourselves shall determine and resolve the fate of our people."

The following are a selection of recent remarks made by Lukashenko on Belarus' relations with the West.

Warning to Western diplomats

"Western countries should not be telling Belarus what to do. We are not some brainless people to be caught by the collar and taught what to do.

"We are young people. We are capable of learning. We take all the good things you have, but don't push us ... We don't need to be told when we should hold parliamentary or presidential elections."

"In this connection, since I am talking about our foreign policy and mentioned the West, I want to say especially to Western diplomats: please stop these meetings and coordination of activity against the authorities of Belarus.

"You do not need to be the conduit of opposition ideas. Don't be. We are always ready to reach agreement with you, foreign representatives, but only on the basis of certain principles characteristic of Western diplomacy and democracy.

"You wanted us to be sovereign and independent. We will be a sovereign and independent state.

"But you wanted us to be sovereign and independent of our big eastern neighbour, with which we have always lived together - to us it is a fraternal nation.

"But excuse me, we are sovereign and independent of the West. We cannot have our policy dictated to us. And Western states must understand that... Belarus seeks cooperation with the West."

Lukashenko in his annual message to parliament, broadcast by Belarusian radio on April 17, 1998

'West fears re-integration of former socialist states'

"The West itself is pursuing integration - the European Union, the European parliament and the OSCE.

"Clinton proposes to America and Latin America, let's come together for the sake of free trade.

"We want the same with the Russian Federations and other CIS republics. But they (Western countries) are afraid of something else.

"Above all, they are afraid that we will revive our integration, the entire huge Eurasian market of the former socialist European states, leaving less room for the Americans and Westerners in this market. This is one of their greatest fears.

Lukashenko on Belarusian radio, November 5, 1997

Attacks West over Nato expansion

"As I've always said, even before Russia did, there is no need today for Nato to expand eastwards and it's an attempt by the West to enshrine its victory in the Cold War.

"I put it in stronger terms. And how are they going to view me in the West after this? As a dictator, of course! As an authoritarian leader, of course, and so on and so forth."

Lukashenko in an interview with Ostankino Radio Mayak, Moscow, September 6, 1997

EU 'schemes' criticised

"We are sick and tired of schemes. Belarus is a sovereign and independent state, and it will not have foreign representatives behave worse on its territory than at home."

Lukashenko criticizing EU ambassadors to Belarus after they issued a statement expressing concern at the political situation in Belarus in the run-up to a controversial referendum on presidential powers in 1996.

'Interfering foreign individuals'

"We will not allow foreign citizens to finance opposition or take part in disturbances," he said in March of this year, shortly after the American director of the charitable Soros Foundation was expelled from Belarus, allegedly for using funds to finance the Belarusian opposition.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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