US orders Belarus embassy closed in diplomatic rift

By: AP
By: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Associated Press has learned that the
State Department is ordering Belarus to close its embassy in
Washington and consulate in New York and will shut down the U.S.
Embassy in the Belarusian capital in a new escalation of a
diplomatic dispute.
Officials tell the AP that Belarus has been given until May 16
to withdraw its six diplomats at the two missions and that the
American embassy in Minsk will cease operations as early as Friday.
The move is just a step short of severing diplomatic relations and
is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat exchanges with the former
Soviet republic.
The United States is one of the fiercest critics of Belarus'
authoritarian president, and relations have deteriorated notably
this year amid pressure from Washington for Belarus to release
political prisoners or face punitive sanctions. Belarus on
Wednesday ordered most of the U.S. Embassy staff in Minsk to leave
the country in 72 hours.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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