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Belarus Cuts Staff at Its Washington Embassy, Expects US to Do Same

Belarus says it is cutting staff at its embassy in the United States to seven people and expects the U.S. side to do the same.

Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktar Haysyonak told reporters in Minsk Wednesday Belarus wants to keep its ambassador and six diplomats in Washington and is withdrawing other personnel. He said he has not received any response from Washington regarding its action.

Haysyonak says the only basis for further dialogue with the United States is for Washington to completely and unconditionally lift the sanctions on the Belarusian state-run energy monopoly Belneftekhim. Last year, Washington froze the Belarusian firm's assets under U.S. jurisdiction, in response to human rights and electoral violations in Belarus.

President Bush has sought to isolate Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in response to widespread evidence of vote fraud during 2006 elections that gave him a third presidential term.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.