Bush imposes travel ban on Belarus government
WASHINGTON, May 16 (Reuters) President George W Bush imposed a US travel ban on members of the Belarus government citing electoral fraud, human rights abuses and corruption.
Bush yesterday took action following a crackdown on the Belarus opposition after the re-election of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko in a March ballot that Western governments denounced as rigged.
''I have determined that it is in the interest of the United States to take all available measures to restrict the international travel, and to suspend the entry into the United States ... of members of the government of Alexander Lukashenko and others ...,'' Bush said in a presidential directive.
He said the US measures targeted those involved in actions that ''undermine or injure democratic institutions or impede the transition to democracy in Belarus.'' The Bush administration yesterday has described Lukashenko, who has ruled for the past 12 years, as ''Europe's last dictator.'' Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has come under growing US criticism for his record on democracy, was one of a handful of world leaders to congratulate Lukashenko on his re-election.
Putin recently urged the Belarus opposition, some of its leaders now in jail, to abandon resistance to Lukashenko and help build up the ex-Soviet state.
REUTERS PG PM0524