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Libmonster ID: DE-29
Author(s) of the publication: Andrei Urban and Oleg Artyushin
Source: TASS, 04-22-98

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Byelorussian President Alexander Lukashenko said his country will strengthen economic and military cooperation with Russia and enhance integration with other CIS countries as NATO is moving towards the Byelorussian border.

Lukashenko, who is in Germany on a one-day working visit, told journalists after touring an international industrial fair in Hanover, Lower Saxony, on Wednesday that "the development of partnership with Russia is an indisputable foreign economic priority of the republic."

"Russia in the East and Germany in the West are the countries to which Byelorussia's economic cooperation is directed," he said.

He said Byelorussia wants to use its location as a hub between the east and the west of Europe.

"We would like to have a very high level of relations with Moscow and Bonn, although our cooperation with Russia is not free of problems, including in the creation of the Customs Union, our two peoples are bound by close historical ties and seek to live in friendship and partnership," he said.

On relations between Germany and Byelorussia, Lukashenko said that "the government of Germany makes cooperation conditional on the international political situation in the republic, and very often there is a policy of double standards behind this."

"Germany has not yet ratified the agreement on partnership and cooperation concluded between Byelorussia and the European Union in 1996. If we cannot develop political cooperation, we will focus on economic and trade ties, especially since leading German businesses show considerable interest in Byelorussia," he said.

During his private visit at the invitation of German entrepreneurs, Lukashenko had talks with the leaders of Siemens, Continental and MAN.

"We signed several agreements of intent with the German companies with a focus on creating joint ventures in Byelorussia. In addition, the question of economic cooperation at the level of private businesses was in the centre of attention at the meeting with Lower Saxony Minister-President Gerhardt Schroeder who has been nominated for the post of chancellor by the major opposition Social Democratic Party...," he said.

Characterising the economic situation in Byelorussia, Lukashenko said GDP growth in the first quarter of this year was 11 percent compared to 10 percent in the same period of 1997.

This means that not only do we not lag behind other ex-Soviet republics, but actually are ahead of them," he said.

Lukashenko's visit is taking place against the background of protests initiated by the German public organisation "Journalists Without Borders" which accuses the Byelorussian president of dictatorship.

Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, who also visited the fair, made a statement for the press in which he pointed to the inadmissibility of official contacts with the Byelorussian leader in the light of EU decisions aimed at putting an end to human rights violations in Byelorussia.

At the same time, he made it clear that this does not mean that German enterprises wishing to work and invest in the Byelorussian economy should sever their ties with Minsk.



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