Polish, German FMs in Belarus as presidential ballot looms

29th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

The German and Polish foreign ministers are to meet with Belarus's authoritarian president Tuesday in Minsk ahead of a ballot in which he is likely to be re-elected, Poland's foreign ministry said Friday.

"The two ministers want to send our Belarusian partners a clear European message" ahead of the December 19 presidntial poll, the Polish foreign ministry statement said.

Aside from talks with President Alexander Lukashenko, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Poland's Radoslaw Sikorski are also due to meet with "several other candidates" whose names were not specified, the statement said.

Lukashenko, once described by Washington as Europe's last dictator, has ruled the former Soviet republic with an iron fist since 1994, and is widely expected to sail to victory in the election.

Belarus' fractured opposition has failed to unite around a common candidate to challenge Lukashenko's grip on power.

The strongman leader has cracked down on opposition protests and been linked to the disappearances and deaths of his opponents.

A long-time ally of Russia and pariah in the West, Lukashenko has recently moved closer to the European Union, which has reached out despite the human rights violations attributed to his regime.

His ties with Moscow have become increasing tense in recent months.

© 2010 AFP

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