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US President Slams Repression in Belarus


US President Barack Obama speaks at a press conference after talks with the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, in Warsaw, Poland, May 28, 2011

US President Barack Obama speaks at a press conference after talks with the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, in Warsaw, Poland, May 28, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday criticized the level of repression in Belarus and called on ally Poland to act as a force for democratic reform in neighboring Belarus.

Obama warned that under the repressive government of President Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus was "backsliding." He said Lukashenko had shown a total disregard for democratic values, the rule of law and his own people.

Hundreds of pro-democracy activists and human rights supporters have been arrested and reportedly abused in Belarus following mass protests against the December 2010 election results that granted Lukashenko a fourth term in power.

Critics and international observers said the vote count was flawed. Lukashenko has lashed out against his critics and ignored international sanctions against himself and his government.

Obama said the repressive actions could have a negative impact over the whole region.

The U.S. president called on Poland, which takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union in July, to remain a force for democracy and modernization in the region.

He said that Washington and Warsaw have coordinated closely on Belarus since the crackdown began five months ago, and have agreed to apply as much pressure as possible on Minsk to change its practices.

In a statement released by the White House on Saturday, the United States said unless Lukashenko frees all political prisoners and detainees, stops the intimidation of civil society and allows for a freer media, Washington would impose additional sanctions on Belarusian companies involved with those responsible for the crackdown.

Obama was speaking in Poland at the end of a six-day, four-country tour of Europe.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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