The International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) closed its representative office in Belarus yesterday. The reason behind the closure was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs refusal on July 7 to extend the council's accreditation in Belarus and order to stop its activities by August 7.
The Belarussian Foreign Ministry based its decision on violations to Belarussian laws discovered by the state control committee during its inspection of the US organization IREX and also the exception of the IREX media support program Pro Media from a list of US aid programs approved by the Belarussian government. Employees of the IREX office in Belarus say the reasons for the closure 'are more political than legal.' The US Embassy in Belarus in a statement on July 9 called the decision by the Foreign Ministry 'unfounded.' It went on to say that 'the closure of the IREX office not only is a threat to other programs connected with mass media but deprives thousands of Belarussians access to the Internet and participation in exchange programs conducted by IREX.' The US organization IREX is active throughout the world in the development of higher education, independent media, Internet and civil society.