Belarus' leader visits Austria, pushes for closer EU ties

VIENNA (AP) — Belarus' authoritarian leader says his nation is hoping for better ties with the European Union.

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President Alexander Lukashenko made the comments Tuesday after talking to Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen during a visit to that country.

Lukashenko said Austria could help normalize Belarus-EU relations. He also hailed Austria as "a key and reliable partner" for Belarus.

During his quarter century rule of Belarus, Lukashenko has shown little tolerance for dissent and independent media. Belarus has relied heavily on Russian financial support, but Lukashenko has recently sought to mend ties with the West.

The U.S. and the European Union have lifted some sanctions they imposed on Belarus, while Lukashenko has sought to improve his nation's human rights record.

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