A senior politician in Lithuania has spoken frankly about the lack of acceptance of gay people in the country.

Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas, speaking in Parliament yesterday, said:

“Lithuania is one of the most homophobic countries in the EU. This has to be viewed as a fact.

“The situation cannot be changed by any one party or minister.”

Mr Vaitiekunas added that it would take a generational change before attitudes were different.

At present gay people are barred from holding Pride marches by the authorities in the capital Vilnius.

In April the Council of Europe formally expressed concern over the situation in the country for the first time since it broke from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Twice last year gay activists were banned from displaying the rainbow flag, an international symbol of gay rights.

In May 2007 the Mayor of Vilnius refused to give permission for an anti-discrimination truck tour to visit the city.

The truck was part of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All campaign, but Mayor Imbrasas claimed it could cause a security risk and riots.

A large majority of the Lithuanian population are Roman Catholics, and the church is openly hostile the rights of sexual minorities.

A law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment was passed in 2004, as an obligation for acceptance into the European Union.