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EU envoys to hold emergency meeting on Belarus-Sweden row

eu-building 404BRUSSELS: EU ambassadors will hold an emergency meeting Friday on a row that has seen Belarus expel all Sweden's diplomats in what Stockholm calls retaliation for its pro-rights stance, EU sources said.

"There will be an emergency meeting of the European Union ambassadors Friday to decide on appropriate measures," one source said on condition of anonymity, adding that the meeting would be held in Brussels.

EU diplomatic chief Catherine Ashton's spokesman Sebastien Brabant confirmed that envoys from the 27-member bloc would discuss the situation in Belarus at an emergency meeting, but did not give details.

Belarus expelled Swedish ambassador Stefan Eriksson on Friday saying he had tried to "destroy" ties with the ex-Soviet state run by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The move came after Swedish activists illegally flew a plane into Belarus early last month and dropped hundreds of teddy bears attached to little parachutes carrying signs calling for freedom of speech and human rights.

Lukashenko dismissed the country's top border control official and the top air force commander after the incident, which was orchestrated by a Swedish advertising firm.

On Wednesday Sweden said Belarus had proceeded to kick all its diplomats out of the country.

Lukashenko's "fear of human rights (is) reaching new heights," Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter.

Ashton on Friday warned Belarus that "appropriate EU measures" could be taken in response to the expulsion.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012


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