BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government hit back at Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday after his slur on Germany’s foreign minister that it was “better to be a dictator than gay”
Lukaschenko, branded “Europe’s last dictator” by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, lashed out at European Union politicians on Sunday who have threatened him with further sanctions over alleged human rights abuses.
“Better to be a dictator than gay,” Lukashenko said, according to Belarus news agency Belta, in an apparent riposte to Westerwelle who is Germany’s first openly gay minister.
“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 on Friday 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.
“Unfortunately (Lukaschenko’s comment) shows very clearly the position that the Belarussian president takes in relation to basic rights. It’s interesting to find out this way that Mr Lukashenko too now classes himself as a dictator,” said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert.
“That by the way is a view that the federal government reached some time ago and on which the Belarussian president delivers proof almost daily,” he added.
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.”
Referring to Westerwelle, he said: “I told him frankly, looking him in the eyes. You ought to lead a normal way of life.”
Reporting by Annika Breithardt; writing by Alexandra Hudson