Source Pravda.Ru

US official slams Belarus political system

A US official criticized Belarus on Monday for isolating itself and saidthe government of the former Soviet republic must choose which side it ison in the war against terror.In a video linkup from Washington, Deputy Assistant Secretary of StateSteven Pifer - who in February expressed concern about reports that Belarushad sold weapons to terrorist states or groups and provided them militarytraining - said the country had done nothing to make its arms sales moretransparent. "In the past we have seen specific contacts by the Belarusiangovernment with Iraq," Pifer said. "After Sept. 11 of last year ... allcountries have to choose what side they take in the war on terrorism," hesaid.Characterizing bilateral relations as "very poor," Pifer said that in thesix months since his visit to Belarus - a nation of 10 million sandwichedbetween Russia and Poland - President Alexander Lukashenko's government hadfailed to take any steps toward democracy. "The government of Belarus haschosen to isolate itself," he said.Lukashenko has become a pariah among European leaders for stifling dissent,breaking up opposition protests and pressuring independent media. In 1996he expanded his powers and replaced parliament with a body of hissupporters. The United States and other Western nations have not recognizedthe results of subsequent parliamentary elections or Lukashenko'sre-election last year, the Russia Journal reported..