U.S. extends sanctions on Belarus for additional year

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Accusing Belarus of posing a "continuing unusual and extraordinary threat" to U.S. security, President Barack Obama on Tuesday declared an extension of sanctions on Belarus for an additional year.

In a letter to the Congress, Obama told U.S. lawmakers that he has decided to keep the National Emergency on Belarus, which expires on June 16, in effect for one more year.

Obama's predecessor George W. Bush declared the National Emergency on Belarus on June 16, 2006, asking sanctions against "certain persons undermining democratic process or institution" in that country.

In his letter, Obama said "serious challenges remain" in Belarus.

"The actions and policies of certain members of the government of Belarus and other persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States," he said.

Belarus-U.S. relations have cooled following the election of President Alyaksander Lukashenka in 1994. The United States has accused Belarus of being undemocratic, while Belarus has charged Washington with interfering in its internal affairs.

Also on Tuesday, Obama decided to extend the National Emergency on the Western Balkans, which expires on June 26, for another year.

The president explained that the actions of persons threatening the peace and international stabilization efforts in the Western Balkans continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to U.S. national security and foreign policy.

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