The European Commission has again refused to give Belarus free access to the European Union (EU) market for textiles and clothing because of its much-rebuked human rights record.

The decision makes it one of four countries excluded from quota-free trade, along with North Korea, Kosovo and Montenegro.

Brussels has published details of a 2007 textile and clothing trade deal which gives similar rights to Belarus as last year's agreement.

It comes as EU external affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner declared: "As soon as the country indicates a willingness to move towards true democracy, human rights and rule of law, we will be ready to enter into a full partnership."

This would include normal trade relations, she stressed. In the meantime, the Belarus clothing and textile industry will have to make do with the restricted terms it possesses.

The new deal slightly tightens import quotas: "In view of the political situation prevailing in Belarus, the proposed amendment is restrictive", said a Commission note.

The most significant textile quota would be 6,600 tonnes of woven cotton fabric. But for clothing, Belarus can export 1,839 knitted or crocheted shirts, T-shirts, polo-neck jumpers and under-vests; 1,105 knitted or crocheted jerseys, pullovers, waistcoats, cardigans and the like; 1,705 woven men's breeches and women's trousers and tracksuit bottoms, among others.

By Keith Nuthall.