Lukashenko hints at friendlier relationship with NATO

  • 2002-07-18
  • Agence France - Presse

President Alexander Luka-shenko hinted last week that his country was seeking friendlier relations with NATO following a flurry of condemnations from Washington of his regime.

Lukashenko said in televised remarks that Belarus would re-evaluate its relations with the U.S.-led alliance in response to NATO's planned eastward expansion in Europe and the decision by neighboring Ukraine to seek membership in the bloc.

"It is very important for us to honestly re-evaluate the place and role of Belarus in this Euro-Atlantic integration process and determine the general means of cooperation with NATO," Lukashenko said.

His remarks came at the top of a security council meeting devoted to a military exercise scheduled for this winter with NATO in which the two sides will practice a joint response to a potential nuclear accident.

Lukashenko, branded the last dictator in Europe by Washington, said that Belarus sought to "correct some of its positions" in regard to NATO.

He has been repeatedly denounced by Western governments for flagrant abuses of human rights and for failing to reform any of the Soviet-era institutions in the republic.

More recently, he has been accused by Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to recreate the Soviet Union by latching on his republic to Russia.

Belarus and Russia have signed a string of loose union agreements, but the Putin administration has made steps to distance itself from Lukashenko despite broad public support for full integration between the two republics.