The Belarusian president has blasted the EU over planned sanctions, directing a particularly personal barb at Germany's foreign minister. For the first time, Alexander Lukashenko also referred to himself as a dictator.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has criticized EU politicians who have threatened further sanctions against the country, with an apparent reposte to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
In his comments, delivered while attending a ski event, Lukashenko condemned both Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Westerwelle for spearheading a diplomatic offensive against Minsk. He also delivered a personal broadside against Westerwelle, Berlin's first openly gay minister.
"One lives in Warsaw and the other in Berlin," Lukashenko said. "The second was complaining about a dictatorship. When I heard that, I thought to myself that it is better to be a dictator than gay."
The comment came after EU members on Friday called for new measures to pressure the Belarus president, in power since 1994, over alleged human rights abuses.
EU voices deepening fears
At a summit in Brussels, EU leaders expressed "serious and deepening concern" over Minsk's crackdown on civil society.
EU nations agreed last Wednesday to temporarily withdraw their ambassadors to the former Soviet republic after the Belarus ambassador was withdrawn from Brussels in a dispute over sanctions. The president, a sports enthusiast, is thought to be particularly aggrieved by calls for the 2014 World Ice Hockey Championships to be taken away from the country.
Lukashenko, a former collective farm boss, was once identified as Europe's last dictator by Washington. The 57-year-old last year said that in a meeting he had once told Westerwelle that he "must lead a normal life." While he apologized after making the remarks, he added that he "did not like gays."
rc/mr (dpa, Reuters)