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EU to review Mugabe sanctions

Dumisani Muleya

THE European Union is reviewing targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe’s political leadership ahead of their renewal next year.

rdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>A flurry of shuttle diplomacy involving the European Union and other interested parties on the long-running Zimbabwe crisis is under way ahead of the 2005 election.

Diplomatic sources confirmed that senior officials from the African desks of Britain and France’s foreign ministries were in Harare over the past two weeks to put out feelers on possible re-engagement with Zimbabwean authorities.

The EU in February 2002 imposed targeted sanctions and travel bans on President Robert Mugabe and his regime to protest repression and human rights abuses. It has also slapped Zimbabwe with an arms embargo.

Sources said Britain and France are trying to find a formula to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis.

Although the two countries share a common EU position on Zimbabwe, they have different views on how to handle the problem. In the absence of any change of behaviour by Zanu PF, Britain wants a renewal of sanctions while France favours a policy of engagement.

This accords with regional approaches, most notably South Africa’s “quiet diplomacy” aimed at persuading Zanu PF and the MDC to negotiate a way out of the impasse.

British ambassador to Zimbabwe, Dr Roderick Pullen, has been meeting cabinet ministers and Zanu PF politburo members to discuss issues. British embassy spokesperson Gillian Dare said Pullen had held meeting with authorities but there had been no “policy shift” on Zimbabwe as yet.

“There have been some meetings and they have listened to us and we have also listened to them but there is no policy shift,” she said. “The difference is that they are now more responsive to dialogue.”

The French position, which Britain appears reluctantly to have embraced in return for France’s cooperation over the renewal of EU sanctions in February, dovetails with South African President Thabo Mbeki’s diplomacy.

Sources said Mbeki’s approach, endorsed by United States President George Bush last year during his visit to Pretoria, is winning the day as it had become “the only show in town”.

“Mbeki’s policy of coaxing the two political parties to re-engage, especially after the concessions Zimbabwe made in Mauritius, is viewed as the more rewarding of the various policies,” a Western diplomat said this week. A recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) said Western nations need to support Mbeki’s initiative.

When the EU’s “Common Position” is renewed in February, it could be for just a few months instead of a year to concentrate minds in Harare and hold out the rewards of dialogue. But if the election is violent and openly manipulated, as was the case in 2002, such concessions will prove problematic.

*Meanwhile, the EU parliament yesterday adopted a resolution condemning the passage of repressive legislation in Zimbabwe and demanding the release of Roy Bennett.

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