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Belarus' Lukashenko Calls for Dialogue With US

Belarus' fiercely anti-Western president Alexander Lukashenko says he wants an open and constructive dialogue with the United States.

Mr. Lukashenko received the credentials of the new U.S. Ambassador Karen Stewart on Tuesday in Minsk. He said he wants closer ties with Washington based on what he calls equality and mutual respect for each other's interests.

There has been no response so far from Washington or Ambassador Stewart. But she earlier said that President Bush calls the United States a steadfast friend to the Belarusian people and will stand with them as they work out their future.

Mr. Bush has also called President Lukashenko Europe's last dictator because of his suppression of human rights and free speech.

Washington has frozen Mr. Lukashenko's assets in the United States and in March the U.S. imposed a travel ban on top Belarusian officials after Mr. Lukashenko won a third term. The West denounced the election as a fraud.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.