EU all-but agreed to sanction new Belarus names, companies

20th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Poland, Germany and France backed sanctions Friday against Belarus strongman Aleksander Lukashenko that an EU diplomat said would target 13 people including judges, and may also hit companies.

"Not a general embargo, but something which will make life difficult for companies which finance the regime," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told a joint press conference in Bydgoszcz, northern Poland, alongside his German and French counterparts.

"We will increase the pressure on the Belarus regime as long as it does not change its politics," Sikorski said, referring to a Lukashenko crackdown on opponents.

"The sanctions will affect the regime, not the people," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle added. France's Alain Juppe also indicated his backing ahead of talks among the 27 European Union foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.

The EU diplomat said the bloc had more or less agreed the new names to be hit with asset freezes and travel bans and that there were ongoing discussions about companies that could also be hit in an effort to choke the regime.

There are already 175 people connected to controversially re-elected President Alexander Lukashenko covered by EU sanctions.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton strongly condemned last week the jailing of Belarus opposition leader Andrei Sannikov for five years on charges of organising protests after Lukashenko's disputed re-election in December.

On Friday, Belarus handed two-year suspended sentences to former presidential candidates Vladimir Nekliayev and Vitaly Rymashevsky, convicting them of public order offences during post-election protests.

Over 20 opposition activists have been tried or jailed by the regime since its crackdown on protests against the re-election of Lukashenko in a presidential ballot that both the Belarus opposition and international observers said was flawed.

© 2011 AFP

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