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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Belarus angered by US sanctions
Opposition protest in Minsk
The opposition say the results of the referendum were fraudulent
Belarus has attacked a US decision to impose sanctions in response to a controversial referendum which could allow the president to stay in office.

Minsk said the move was an unfriendly act reminiscent of the Cold War, and reserved the right to retaliate.

Sunday's referendum led to three nights of opposition protests in Belarus.

But election officials say nearly 80% of voters backed the poll, which allows President Alexander Lukashenko to stand for a third consecutive term.

The opposition says the result was achieved through fraud and intimidation.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) which sent dozens of observers, reported widespread problems with a simultaneous vote for parliamentary elections.

Pressure

US President George W Bush responded to concerns about the election and referendum with the Belarus Democracy Act which provides for sanctions against Belarus.

The act calls for the promotion of democracy by supplying aid to non-governmental organisations, helping to establish an independent media and a ban on US federal agencies from giving any financial aid to the country.

Belarus foreign ministry spokesman Andrey Savinykh said Belarus could take measures against the US in retaliation.

"The Republic of Belarus will continue to aim for mutually beneficial relations in international affairs, but we reject any attempts at diktat and pressure from the USA," he told Belarussian TV.

"In these circumstances, Belarus reserves the right to adopt retaliatory steps."

The president has run the ex-Soviet republic since 1994.


SEE ALSO:
Dozens arrested at Belarus rally
19 Oct 04  |  Europe
Press denounces Belarus poll
19 Oct 04  |  Europe
Observers deplore Belarus vote
18 Oct 04  |  Europe
OSCE slams Belarus vote: Text
18 Oct 04  |  Europe
Q&A: Belarus votes
16 Oct 04  |  Europe
Profile: Alexander Lukashenko
10 Jul 04  |  Europe
Country profile: Belarus
08 Mar 02  |  Country profiles


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