Europe

Germany rejects gay jibe from Belarus leader Lukashenko

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (image from 2008)
Image caption Mr Lukashenko has been in power for nearly two decades

The German government has said a remark by the president of Belarus that he would rather be a dictator than gay says more about him than anything else.

Alexander Lukashenko's remark was seen as an attack on Germany's openly gay Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle.

Mr Westerwelle complained of human rights abuses in Belarus last week, calling Mr Lukashenko's government "the last dictatorship in Europe''.

"It's better to be a dictator than gay," Mr Lukashenko said on Sunday.

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Mr Lukashenko's remark was telling.

"It is interesting that even Mr Lukashenko views himself now as a dictator," he said.

Mr Westerwelle responded by saying Mr Lukashenko's statement spoke "for itself".

"I'm not going to retreat from my engagement on human rights and democracy in Belarus one single millimetre," the German foreign minister added.

Last month, the EU extended its blacklist of Belarusian officials, adding 21 names to the list, which already included more than 160 individuals.

It followed disputed elections in December 2010, and the arrest of four opposition candidates.

Diplomats said at the time the sanctions would be imposed on officials "involved in repression" after the vote.

More than 600 people were detained, including seven of the candidates, after protests against what international monitors said was a rigged election.

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