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US Ambassador to Belarus Recalled to Washington

US Ambassador to Belarus Recalled to Washington

The U.S. has decided to recall Ambassador Karen Stewart for “short consultations”. She informed about that on March 12 in the morning at the meeting with representatives of the united democratic forces of Belarus. “The policy of the U.S. towards the Belarusian regime will remain inalterable unchanged,” Karen Stewart said at the meeting.

The Ambassador has expressed hope that she would be absent for a few weeks, not more, and the schedule of the work of the US Embassy in Minsk won’t change in this connection.

Karen Stewart doesn’t exclude that her route to Washington would go through Brussels.

March 7 Belarusian authorities recommended the U.S. Ambassador leave the country after sanctions were imposed by the U.S. Department of State against Belneftekhim concern. Belarus has also recalled Belarusian Ambassador to the U.S. Mikhail Khvastou to Minsk for consultations.

On November 13, 2007 the U.S. administration imposed sanctions against Belarusian state-run concern Belneftekhim. The U.S. Treasury froze accounts in the U.S. of the concern and its branches in Germany, Latvia, Ukraine, Russia and China, as well as accounts of Belneftekhim USA Inc.

After sanctions were imposed, Alyaksandr Lukashenka threatened the U.S. Ambassador Karen Stewart with expelling, thus aggravating the strained relations with Washington. Earlier Washington called Lukashenka “the last dictator of Europe”.

“She will be the first to be thrown away,” Lukashenka said on December 30, meaning the Ambassador. “She hangs out with opposition and says that sanctions can be imposed on Belarus”.

On March 7, 2008 the U.S. Treasury, explaining the sanctions against Belneftekhim imposed in autumn 2007, in fact expanded their application to all Belarusian enterprises of petrochemical complex in which the state in which the state owns, directly or indirectly, a 50% or greater interest.

Before this Guidance was published, sanctions affected only branches of the concern and a number of its foreign subsidiaries.

“U.S. persons who have or who are contemplating business relationships with entities in which Belfneftekhim owns, directly or indirectly, a 50% or greater interest should be aware that the property and interests in property of such entities are blocked,” reads the document.

Even the closed joint-stock company “Belarusian potassium company” in which the state owns 50%, is affected by the sanctions.

The White House has called the decision of the Belarusian authorities to expel the U.S. Ambassador to Belarus groundless and stated that it could bring about further isolation of the country in the world. It has been stated in the declaration that the actions of Minsk “distance Belarus from Europe and the rest of the world more”.

The reason for imposing sanctions by the U.S. is a refusal of the Belarusian regime to release political prisoners. Today a former candidate for presidency in Belarus Alyaksandr Kazulin, a young leader Andrei Kim and a leader of entrepreneurs Andrei Parsyukevich are still staying imprisoned.

“We’re deeply disappointed that the government in Belarus would choose to put forward these kinds of ideas and accusations,” Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman of the US Department of State, said at a briefing in Washington. “We have said -- and I refer you back to the statement we made last week, that we are appreciative of the fact that they have released several of the political prisoners. And we, in fact, noted at the time that if they were to release the remaining political prisoners, very specifically Mr. Kazulin, then we might be in a position to engage with them and begin a dialogue on how we might be able to improve relations. But frankly, if the Belarusian Government wishes to shoot itself in the foot, they're welcome to do so,” T. Casey concluded.

David Kramer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs has also stated in an interview with BelaPAN, that the U.S. government had expanded its visa ban list targeting Belarusian officials and introduced the sanctions against Belneftekhim last year “in response to the Belarusian government’s failure to release Alyaksnadr Kazulin”.

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