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Minsk Bars U.S. Senators from Visiting Belarus before Elections

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has refused to issue visas to four U.S. senators, including John McCain (Republican, Arizona), who planned to visit Belarus later this month.

"The time of the visit proposed by the American side did not satisfy us," Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Savinykh told RFE/RL. "We have proposed to reschedule the visit for a later date, namely -- after the end of election campaigns in both Belarus and the United States."

"I am disappointed -- but frankly not surprised -- by the latest antidemocratic action by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus," McCain said in a statement. "Because he feared that we might criticize his totalitarian rule, Mr. Lukashenka refused us visas, rejected our visit, and denied us entry into the country."

McCain is one of the most vigorous advocates of Belarus's democratization in the U.S. Congress.

(RFE/RL 12.viii.04)

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