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Lukashenko wants to boost EU confidence in Minsk's policies

MINSK, February 19 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko expressed his hope on Thursday that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will be reassured by Minsk's policies on the EU. Solana arrived in Minsk for talks with the authorities and opposition members in the ex-Soviet republic for the first time since 1996, when the European Union rejected cooperation with Belarus after a referendum. "I would like to assure you in our sincere policies towards the EU. I wouldn't like you to get the impression that we want to run in one way, making mistakes, deceiving you and the EU in what we are not authorized to do. We will tell the truth about what we can and what we cannot do in our relations," Lukashenko said. He expressed a feeling that bilateral relations between Belarus and the EU at the current stage smacked of "a certain bargaining in both political and economic issues," and hinted that Belarus was also important for Europe in both spheres. Belarus's long-serving leader, once dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by Washington, has moved to improve ties with the EU, which had long criticized his records on human rights and democracy. In October, the EU suspended for six months travel restrictions and other sanctions against Belarus's leadership, including Lukashenko. Solana said the EU viewed Belarus as "a European country" and also hoped for an "open and honest dialogue" with Minsk. The EU official, who is also expected to hold talks with Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov, said the time had come to discuss the global political consequences of the ongoing economic crisis that has swept through Europe. The EU plans to include Belarus in its new program, Eastern Partnership, on the condition that Minsk complies with EU demands on the country's democratization. The Czech Republic earlier said it planned to invite Lukashenko to the next EU summit, to be held in Prague this spring.

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