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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 16:47 GMT
EU imposes Belarus travel ban
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
Lukashenko wanted to attend Nato's Prague summit
Fourteen of the 15 European Union nations have imposed a travel ban on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko because of his country's poor human rights record.

The ban also covers seven government ministers.

Portugal decided not to go along with the move, because it hopes the Belarus foreign minister will attend a gathering of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Lisbon next month.

"I am sure the 14 nations will implement the ban speedily," said a diplomat from Denmark, which holds the EU presidency.

Last 'dictator'

"There are eight people that these countries do not want to see," the official said.

Originally, the EU nations had sought to enforce a ban covering a wider range of Belarus government officials.

The Czech Government has already refused Mr Lukashenko a visa to attend this week's Nato summit, prompting Belarus to withdraw its ambassador from Prague in protest.

Officials have warned the EU they will no longer co-operate on illegal migration and other issues.

Described by Washington as the last dictator in Europe, Mr Lukashenko has become increasingly isolated from the West because of alleged harassment of the opposition and the press.

Expulsions

Last month, he expelled all monitors from an OSCE mission in the country.

Then, in an extraordinary outburst, he threatened to stop policing his borders and let drug traffickers and illegal immigrants into the EU if he did not get a visa to attend next week's Nato summit in Prague.

Although a member of Nato's Partnership for Peace, Belarus has also been accused of training Iraqi military officers.

Seven countries from Eastern Europe, including Belarus' neighbours Lithuania and Latvia, are likely to be invited to join the alliance at the Prague summit.

See also:

22 Jun 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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