The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to reexamine sanctions
against the authoritarian government in Belarus, with the aim of
eventually easing visa bans against government leaders.
The non-binding resolution, passed Thursday, calls on EU countries to review and possibly suspend some of the bans.
European Union and the United States in 2006 slapped new sanctions on
President Alexander Lukashenko and top members of his government,
following presidential elections that Western monitors said were rigged.
Thursday, parliament recommended that EU countries partially suspend
sanctions for six months, if Mr. Lukashenko eases a restrictive media
law under which dozens of independent journalist have been jailed.
EU foreign ministers are set to discuss the vote at talks next week, Monday, in Luxembourg.
month, monitors for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe said the Belarusian parliamentary elections had fallen short of
democratic standards, despite what they called "minor improvements" in
Before the polls, U.S. and EU officials had voiced
optimism over prospects of a thaw in diplomatic ties with Belarus,
after authorities in Minsk freed former opposition presidential
candidate Alexander Kozulin from prison.
Kozulin received a
five-and-a-half-year prison term in 2006, for openly protesting
President Lukashenko's reelection. Kozulin and international monitors
had cited widespread voter fraud.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.