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Germany summons Belarus ambassador over disputed vote, according to government source

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AFP: Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, on Thursday summoned the Belarusian ambassador to urgent talks over President Alexander Lukashenko's disputed re-election.

"Today the Belarusian ambassador was invited to the Federal Foreign Office for an urgent discussion in view of current developments," a government source told AFP. The move comes ahead of a meeting on Friday of EU foreign ministers to discuss possible sanctions on Belarus.

Lukashenko's opponents accuse him of rigging Sunday's election to defeat his main rival, popular opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who has left the ex-Soviet country for neighbouring Lithuania.

During four nights of unrest since the vote, police have used stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and, in at least one case, live fire to disperse the crowds.

At least two people have died and hundreds have been wounded in the violence while nearly 7,000 have been arrested.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had said earlier Thursday that the latest developments, including the "brutal" repression of peaceful demonstrators, were "unacceptable" in 21st century Europe.

"That's why we have to raise the pressure on those in power there," Maas said at a Berlin press conference alongside his Norwegian counterpart.

"We will certainly have to talk about the question of sanctions, an issue that is being intensely discussed at the moment. I hope we will find a common solution at tomorrow's meeting," he said.

Cautious optimism in the recent past that Belarus was headed in the right direction has proved unfounded, he said.

The election and the events that followed "have destroyed these hopes", he said, and with that, "any prerequisites for easing sanctions against Belarus".

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