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EU offers compromise to Belarus

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko
Alexander Lukashenko may yet be invited to an EU summit in May

European Union foreign ministers have agreed a compromise deal on the EU's relations with Belarus.

The ministers agreed to renew for a year the travel ban imposed on President Alexander Lukashenko for alleged election rigging in 2006.

But they also extended for nine months a suspension of sanctions imposed 12 years ago.

The ministers said the aim was to encourage further moves towards democracy and respect for human rights.

"The European Union remains ready to deepen its relations with Belarus, subject to progress made by Belarus," a statement said.

But no decision has yet been taken on whether to invite President Lukashenko to an EU summit in May aiming to launch the Eastern Partnership, a plan to strengthen ties between the EU and six former Soviet states.

Belarus's foreign ministry gave a guarded welcome to the move, but said the EU should go further "with a full lifting of all restrictions".

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