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US envoy to Belarus leaves

By RIA Novosti

Minsk : The US Ambassador to Belarus Karen Stewart left Minsk for Washington Wednesday, the embassy here said on its website.

Belarus last week advised the ambassador to leave the capital and recalled its ambassador from Washington for consultations over new US sanctions against its national petrochemical company, Belneftekhim.

Belarus reiterated Tuesday its demand for Stewart to leave.

“Ambassador Stewart’s absence is temporary, and she remains the US ambassador to Belarus,” the embassy said, adding that Washington’s policy toward Minsk remained unchanged.

In mid-November last year, the US introduced sanctions against Belneftekhim, and froze the assets of its US subsidiary. Belarus said the moves breached a bilateral trade deal designed to give better access to Belarusian goods and services.

Alexander Lukashenko, the controversial Belarusian leader dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” by Washington, pledged last year to retaliate in the economic sphere and threatened Stewart with expulsion from Minsk.

The US and the European Union (EU) have accused the Belarusian leader of clamping down on dissent, stifling the media and rigging elections. Lukashenko, who was re-elected to a third term in 2006, is currently barred, along with other senior Belarusian officials, from entering the US and the EU.