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Foreign ministers step up rhetoric against Belarus

By Jerome Taylor

Belarus has been turned into a country "driven by fear" and is run by a dictator who has lost the legitimacy to rule his own people, according to a damning joint statement from the foreign ministers of Britain, Sweden, Germany and Poland published exclusively in The Independent.

The letter – signed by the Foreign Secretary William Hague, Germany's Guido Westerwelle, Sweden's Carl Bildt and Poland's Radoslaw Sikorski – is a stinging critique of the Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, right, and represents a significantly more confrontational stance by Europe towards the Continent's last dictatorship.

The foreign ministers say they will push for further sanctions against the Belarusian regime, which is in the middle of a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy dissidents and protesters.

"In the face of Lukashenko's continuing repression against his own people, we have no choice but to argue for a strengthening of EU policy towards Belarus, both in terms of the sanctions regime, and in terms of EU support for Belarusian civil society," the statement reads. "We will push for harsher EU sanctions, targeted at those responsible for serious human rights abuses and those who back the regime financially – not ordinary Belarusians."

On human rights they say: "Belarus is reduced to a country driven by fear."

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