Alyaksandr Lukashenka has called on the United States to take an "impartial" look at Belarus.
"Belarus is the heart and geographical center of Europe. And it is in the interests of the USA to have normal relations with our country," the Belarusian leader’s press office quoted him as telling a visiting delegation of US congressmen on Tuesday.
If the United States is interested in buying stakes in Belarusian companies, it should sit down at the negotiating table, Mr. Lukashenka said. "We realize that the USA is a huge empire with interests in many parts of the planet, and we are ready to build normal relations," the Belarusian leader said. "But why don’t you want it? Why are you casting about for some problems that have never existed in Belarus? They do not exist! Why are you citing here issues that our radical opposition once handed over to you? Do you want to be a mediator in relations between the Belarusian authorities and the opposition? It is a dishonorable role for a great state."
Mr. Lukashenka criticized a US former ambassador to Belarus, Karen Stewart, who left Minsk last year amid a row between Minsk and Washington. He said that she had led opposition demonstrations in Minsk, noting that he could not let it continue.
The Belarusian leader accused the Minsk-based US embassy of failing to provide "true and impartial information" about Belarus to the US lawmakers. "It is a pity that [US Charge d’Affaires] Jonathan Moore is leaving our country," Mr. Lukashenka said. "If he wished, he could say much about Belarus, which would prompt you to change your mind about positions that you have voiced here." He told the US lawmakers that they did not possess any "real information" about the situation in Belarus.
When commenting on the situation of independent trade unions, Mr. Lukashenka said that there were enough of them in the country. "The only thing that we ask them to do is to engage only in charter activities and defend employees’ rights instead of putting up political fight," he said.
As for opposition newspapers, Mr. Lukashenka said that they were freely available even at the Presidential Administration. He suggested that if Washington stops attacking Minsk for its human rights record, both the OSCE and the UN will remove the issue from their agenda. "We are not afraid of you. We respect you and want you to treat us in a like manner," he added.