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Canada raps "dictatorial and abusive" Belarus

Written by: Staff

OTTAWA, March 22 (Reuters) Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper condemned the recent election in Belarus as unfair today and said he was shocked that such ''a dictatorial and abusive regime'' could exist in Europe.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko easily won re-election in a poll on Sunday, which many international observers said was flawed.

Harper, whose Conservative Party took power in Ottawa only last month, said the Belarus election ''was not free and fair'' and noted that opposition workers and candidates had been harassed by the authorities.

''I am shocked that a dictatorial and abusive regime such as this one can continue to exist in today's Europe,'' Harper said in a statement.

''We will work with other free and democratic societies in developing our response to this situation.'' Hundreds of protesters rallied for a fourth day on Wednesday in the center of Minsk, the capital of the former Soviet state. Harper said the Belarus government had to respect the right to peaceful protest.

Reuters DH VP0028

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