Belarus orders US ambassador out for "consultations"
(dpa) - The authoritarian government of Belarus ordered the US ambassador out of the country for "consultations", Interfax news agency reported Friday.
US ambassador Karen Stuart received instructions to leave the former Soviet republic immediately.
Mikhail Khvostov, Belarus' ambassador to the US, would be returning home for an indefinite period as well, said Andrei Popov, a Belarus Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The Belarusian government took the decision to halt top-level diplomatic links with the US, because of sanctions imposed by Washington in November against the Belarusian energy company Belneftkhim, Popov said.
The US bans its citizens from doing business with Belneftkhim, applying the sanction not only to the company's operations in Belarus, but to its branches in Germany China, and three former Soviet republics.
The sanctions, also freezing the US assets of the Belneftekhim USA company, have harmed the firm's ability to conduct international business, and develop energy cooperation.
Belarus has almost no energy reserves of its own and is wholly dependant on Russia for oil and gas - the price of which the Kremlin has tripled over the last two years.
Officials at the US State Department in January said the sanctions would remain in effect because of continued systematic human rights violations by the Belarusian government, against members of the Belarusian opposition.
Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko runs Belarus with the assistance of a powerful secret police.