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US, EU Suspend Some Sanctions Against Belarus

FILE - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko with his youngest son, Nikolai, casts his ballot at a polling station during the presidential election in Minsk, Oct. 11, 2015.

The United States and the European Union are temporarily lifting some sanctions against Belarus, which freed the last of its political prisoners in August.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby on Thursday called the move a "limited reprieve ... that opens the door to expanded commercial ties for the Belarusian economy."

But Kirby said the U.S. was still encouraging Belarus to "take additional positive steps" to improve its human rights record and institute democracy.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, whom the U.S. once called "Europe's last dictator," has recently made overtures to improve ties with the West. They include efforts to negotiate a cease-fire between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists.

But the U.S. criticized this month's election that gave Lukashenko a fifth term as being far from free and fair.