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Tallinn (AFP) Nov 21, 2012
Estonia's embassy in the Minsk will become a liaison office for NATO in Belarus from next January for a period of two years, the Baltic state's foreign ministry confirmed Wednesday.
Ruled by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko -- repeatedly dubbed "Europe's last dictator" in the West -- Belarus, a country of 9.5 million, is an ex-Soviet state sandwiched between NATO members to its west and Russia on its eastern border.
"The Estonian embassy in Minsk will become the liaison office for NATO in Belarus on January 1, 2013 and will serve as NATO liaison office two years," Minna-Liina Lind, Spokeswoman to Estonian Foreign Ministry told AFP on Wednesday.
Created in 1992, the system of NATO liaison offices, is used by the Western defence alliance to introduce its policy to partner nations, Lind said.
Estonia, the Baltic nation of 1.3 million restored its independence from crumbling Soviet Union in 1991 and joined both NATO and EU in 2004.
Minsk has long had an uneasy relationship with its NATO and EU neighbours.
Western powers have criticised Lukashenko's regime for imprisoning his opponents, preventing criticism in the state-controlled media and imposing severe restrictions on rallies in Belarus.
The European Union has imposed asset freezes and travel bans on over 200 regime officials, with assets of 32 firms also targeted by freezes.
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