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Europe

Belarus interior minister resigns

The controversial interior minister of Belarus, Vladimir Naumov, has resigned, as Minsk seeks to improve ties to Europe.

The Belarus Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov is seen holding documents at a press conference.

A statement did not say who would take over from Naumov

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko - dubbed Europe's last dictator - has accepted the resignation of his hard-line interior minister, Vladimir Naumov.

A statement said Naumov resigned for "health reasons."

A Council of Europe report in 2004 blamed Naumov for being one of those responsible for the disappearance of political opponents to the Lukashenko regime. Naumov and three other Belarus officials were banned from travelling to the European Union and the United States following the disappearances of several opposition politicians and a journalist between 1999 and 2000.

All of the EU's entry restrictions were suspended last year, after Belarus released inmates, which the West considered the last of the country's political prisoners. Last month, the EU decided to extend a suspension of sanctions for nine months, which included the travel ban.

However, to keep up the pressure on President Lukashenko, EU ministers decided to prolong other sanctions, including an arms embargo, for another year.

Belarus has sought better relations with Europe in the wake of the global economic crisis. In January, the International Monetary Fund approved an emergency loan to the Minsk government worth nearly $2.5 billion (1.9 billion euros).

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