Jan 21 - Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko is sworn in for a fourth term in office after winning a December election by a landslide. Ian Lee reports.
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Something was noticeably missing from a crowd watching the swearing-in of Belarussian President Alexander Lukanshenko -- western dignitaries.
Friday's inauguration comes amid controversy about his landslide victory in December's election.
Western Ambassadors criticized the polls as rigged and called for the release of opposition leaders and activists.
But despite the pressure the inauguration went ahead.
(SOUNDBITE)(Belarussian) BELARUSSIAN PRESIDENT, ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, SAYING:
"As I accept the position of president of Belarus I solemnly swear to serve the nation of the republic of Belarus and protect the human rights and freedoms of all citizens, to protect and keep intact the constitution of the republic of Belarus, fulfilling the high duties of Belarus to the best of my ability."
Lukanshenko now embarks on his fourth, five-year term.
But European officials are doing their best to shorten it.
The European parliament passed a resolution calling for new elections.
If not, they're considering imposing strict sanctions.
A meeting of EU ministers on January 31st could see a visa ban and assets freeze for top Belarus officials, including Lukashenko.
Leading the way, Poland already enacted a unilateral travel ban against Belarussian authorities and is encouraging other European countries to follow suit.
Ian Lee Reuters
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