Belarus leader to German FM: Lead a normal life
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (L) and his partner Michael Mronz wave to photographers in this photo. The couple married in Bonn in September 2010.The German government said Alexander Lukashenko’s comment that “it’s better to be a dictator than gay” a statement directed at Germany’s gay foreign minister reveals more about the authoritarian Belarusian leader than anything else. Lukashenko, who is known for his anti-gay stance, said: “I told him frankly, looking him in the eyes. You ought to lead a normal way of life,” referring to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Westerwelle last week complained of human rights abuses in Belarus, calling Lukashenko’s government “the last dictatorship in Europe.” On March 5, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said it was revealing that Lukashenko didn’t deny what Westerwelle said when he attacked the foreign minister. Seibert says: “It is interesting that even Mr. Lukashenko views himself now as a dictator.” Westerwelle is vowing to keep pressing Belarus for democratic reforms.
“Unfortunately, these comments speak for themselves. They say a lot about the mind-set of the person making them,” said Foreign Office spokesman Andreas Peschke. European Union leaders March 2 called for new measures to pressure Lukaschenko, in power since 1994, including targeting those in Belarus who are responsible for human rights violations as well as people supporting Lukashenko’s government.
The talk of more sanctions followed a diplomatic spat between the EU and Belarus last week, which escalated into tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions. Lukashenko has criticized homosexuality in the past. Last year after opposition protests against his re-election sparked a crisis with the West, he said: “They’ve started reproaching me for condemning gays. Well, I don’t like gays and I have said I don’t like gays.”
Compiled from AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff