MINSK "I am the last dictator in Europe," Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has told Reuters in a rare interview. Following are extracts of his conversation:
Q: Some Western politicians call you a dictator. What is your reaction?
A: I ask myself what is a dictator? I don't understand. It is some kind of terrible person, a bad person. But I am not frightening, I am not a bad person at all ... I don't really understand what a dictator is, but on the other hand I sometimes, in a nice way, envy myself. I am the last and only dictator in Europe and indeed there are none anywhere else in the world. You came here and looked at a living dictator and where else would you see one? There is something in this. They say that even bad publicity is good publicity.
RUSSIA AND EUROPE
Q: Do you think Belarus is too dependent on Russia?
A: We are equally dependent on each other ... Who would have thought that Europe is dependent on Belarus. Europe started introducing sanctions ....
Are you are worried about illegal immigration? Who fought against it? Belarus. We have 120,000 immigrants in Belarus, Afghans from Asia, people from the Caucasus, people who tried to enter the EU. We defended Europe. What thanks did we get for it? You started to choke us.
We stop explosives, radioactive substances at the border. We cannot close our eyes when radioactive materials and explosives are being brought in to your territory. We cannot at the moment. But we warn you - stop choking us, guys. We don't want to be pushed or sanctioned, or we will close our eyes to these things.
You do not like the fact that we have good relations with Russia. This is determined by our history. During the last war we fought together in the trenches against the Nazis. We saved you, Europe, from being slaves to your own Fuehrer.
Do not forget that you get 80 percent of your oil through Belarus and will be getting up to half of your natural gas from us ... You recently sent over a plane with humorous toys, and it was a violation. And what if the military had opened fire and people had been killed?
Q: How do you see relations with the IMF?
A: We have fulfilled all our agreements and all the conditions set by the IMF better than any other state. Now we are in the stage of holding talks with the IMF. If the IMF is a purely financial and economic organization, we will reach an agreement with it. If it plays politics, we will be holding talks for a long time. As soon as the IMF gets away from political cliches and political criteria in its approach to Belarus, we will reach an agreement in 24 hours.
Q: Are you planning modernization?
A: I say that there might be a day when the question arises of forming a party system. We do not have strong parties now - apart from the Communists and the Nationalists. We will press forward on building parties. We need to create a good party system.
Q: Will you seek a fifth term as president?
A: I shan't be holding on to this job for life. As soon as people decline my services, I'll put my briefcase under my arm and I'll be off.
Q: Are you preparing a successor?
A: Never. I am reproached for allegedly preparing my children, my eldest son, as a successor. I swear to you: I have never discussed this idea, even with my family or with my sons. These are dreamed up by the fifth column in our country.
Q: Is there a possibility of something like the Arab spring happening in Belarus?
A: Don't count on it. Belarus is not the Middle East. The policies of Belarussian and Middle Eastern leaders are cardinally different from one another. A simple nation put me in this chair. I have never moved away from my promises to people.
(Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)