OSCE Repeats Call for Belarus Reforms

VIENNA (Reuter)Europe’s top security body repeated an urgent call Friday on Belarus to restore democracy and it renewed an offer to send a representative to help to resolve the political crisis in the former Soviet Republic.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said its current chairman–Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen–expressed its concerns to Belarus Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovic at a meeting in Copenhagen earlier in the day.

"The chairman-in-office…stated that neither the preparations for the referendum held in November nor the new constitution live up to democratic standards," the OSCE said in a statement released in Vienna.

It was referring to a referendum which Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko used to enhance his powers at the expense of parliament.

"He (Petersen) urged the government of Belarus to re-establish full respect for internationally accepted democratic and constitutional principles and practices–to enter into dialogue with the opposition and to ensure free media," the statement said.

Petersen repeated his offer to send a personal representative to Belarus "to assess a number of key issues–such as general democratic rights–freedom of the press–freedom of expression and movement," it said.

It added that Petersen expected an early reply from Belarus to his offer. "He expresses as his personal assessment that there is reason to hope for a positive reply," it said.

The European Union warned Belarus in December that relations would suffer unless it respected democracy fully and accept the fact-finding mission. This followed a similar call by an OSCE summit in Lisbon the same month.

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