US ‘Disappointed’ Belarus Suspending Uranium Deal With US

Posted August 19th, 2011 at 8:15 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States has expressed disappointment over a decision by Belarus to suspend plans to fully give up its stockpile of highly enriched uranium, as previously agreed with the U.S.

The State Department made the comment Friday, after the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said it is freezing the project in response to new U.S. sanctions, which Minsk says go against the spirit of cooperation. Belarus also said it will make sure the material is stored securely in line with its international commitments.

The U.S. said it hopes Belarus intends to meet its stated objective of the elimination of all of its stocks of highly enriched uranium. Officials also said this is a responsible contribution to global security.

The U.S. imposed the sanctions last week in response to the Belarusian government's crackdown on political opponents. The measures target four firms owned or controlled by a company linked to President Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarusian police have arrested hundreds of people demonstrating against Mr. Lukashenko's 17-year rule. Dozens of people were sentenced to prison terms for taking part in protests following Mr. Lukashenko's disputed re-election in December, including several former presidential candidates. The opposition says the vote was rigged.

The United States has called Mr. Lukashenko Europe's last dictator for suppressing human rights, stifling free speech and fixing elections.

The former Soviet republic is also facing economic turmoil that forced it to sharply devalue its national currency.