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Official: EU expects deeper ties with Belarus
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08:59, February 20, 2009

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The European Union (EU) hopes for deeper and closer relations with Belarus, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Minsk on Thursday, Russian news agencies reported.

At his meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Solana said he has come to send the "message that we would like to get closer to your country," but added that Belarus has to do more to mend ties with the EU.

Lukashenko, for his part, assured Solana of Minsk's sincere policies towards the EU.

"I don't want to give the impression that we have no other option than to run to one side and to deceive the Europeans," he was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.

The Belarusian leader said the EU would try to avoid "middlemen, both domestically and abroad" who could complicate ties between Belarus and Europe.

Solana arrived in Minsk for talks with the authorities and opposition members in the former Soviet state for the first time since 1996, when the EU rejected cooperation with Belarus after a referendum.

The Belarusian president, once dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the West, has moved to improve ties with the EU. Last October, the EU suspended for six months travel bans and other sanctions against the Belarusian leadership.  


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