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Belarus leader faces same fate as Mubarak: John McCain


Belarus's President Alexander Lukashenko takes his oath of office during his inauguration ceremony in Minsk January 21, 2011. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
Belarus's President Alexander Lukashenko takes his oath of office during his inauguration ceremony in Minsk January 21, 2011. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko faces the same fate as Middle Eastern leaders and will have to give in to opposition demands for democracy, the senior U.S. senator said on Friday.

Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain called Lukashenko "a ruthless, oppressive, brutal tyrant" when he met students during a visit to neighboring Lithuania.

McCain made the remarks as hundreds of thousands of Egyptian protesters marched in Cairo on Friday demanding an immediate end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.

"As we see the events unfolding in the Middle East, we also believe that events should unfold here for the people of Belarus," he added later at a news conference.

"Lukashenko is on the wrong side of history, and sooner or later we will see democracy and freedom in Belarus," he said.

A bi-partisan delegation, which included six senators and four members of the House of Representatives, had stopped in Vilnius on its way to the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

McCain and Senator Joseph Lieberman urged a widening of the sanctions against Belarus.

The EU agreed on Monday to ban Lukashenko and about 150 other officials from traveling to the bloc. It also extended a list of people affected by an EU asset freeze.

"We will continue to urge for further sanctions, both on the part of the European Union and the U.S. and other countries against Lukashenko and his corrupt regime," McCain said.

"We appreciate the step forward the EU took in adopting the visa ban, but, we think, it should go further to economic sanctions on energy companies within Belarus that fuel money for that regime to oppress its own people," added Lieberman.

Washington has already extended the list of officials covered by previous travel and financial restrictions.

It revoked a temporary authorization for deals with Belarussian petroleum and chemicals conglomerate, Belneftekhim.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis)

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