February 3, 2006

Belarus said to block US-EU visit over elections

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The State Department said on Friday
that a high-level visit to Belarus by U.S. and European Union
officials has been canceled because Belorussian authorities
would not issue visas.

"We are both disappointed by the failure of the Belorussian
authorities to take this opportunity to engage in an open and
frank dialogue with the international community," said State
Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

The officials, Robert Cooper, the EU's Director General for
External and Political-Military Affairs and Dan Fried, U.S.
Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, had planned the trip
to discuss upcoming Presidential elections in Belarus.

"We both believe that it is vital that Presidential
elections on 19 March be conducted in a free and fair manner,"
McCormack said.