EU mulls more Zim sanctions

June 20, 2008 12:00 am

, BRUSSELS, June 20 – The EU, pressed by Britain, on Friday threatened President Robert Mugabe’s regime with more sanctions, seeking to exert pressure ahead of a run-off presidential vote in Zimbabwe.

In its summit conclusions, the EU said it was "deeply concerned" by the surge in violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe ahead of next Friday’s second round poll.

"The European Council reiterates its readiness to take additional measures against those responsible for violence," the leaders said in their statement.

Gordon Brown, prime minister of former colonial power Britain, at a press conference after the two-day summit, slammed the Mugabe regime as a "criminal cabal".

The veteran Zimbabwean leader’s "increasingly desperate and isolated regime" was carrying out a blatant attempt to intimidate political rivals and steal the elections, he told reporters.

"People should be horrified by what is happening to opposition candidates," he added, citing statistics that 59 people had been murdered and 2,700 men and women beaten and tortured as well as thousands made homeless during campaign violence.

European Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel also expressed "deep concern" at the worsening situation in Zimbabwe exactly a week ahead of the second round, where Mugabe will face Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who topped the first round poll.

"The campaign of violence and intimidation must stop," he added.

The EU "is sending a very strong signal" Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, told the main post-summit press conference, while adding that the bloc’s capacity to act was "quite limited".

The 27 members of the EU "have a moral voice," he stressed.

He, like Brown, stressed the "crucial" importance of election monitors for such votes.

The EU has proposed sending observers for the vote but Harare rejected the idea.

In their statement, the leaders called on the Southern African Development Community and the African Union "to deploy a significant number of election monitors" as soon as possible, and ensure they stay in place until the election is over and the results announced.

"It is vital that ordinary Zimbabweans vote on election day and their votes are counted swiftly and transparently," it said.

The EU "remains deeply concerned by the situation in Zimbabwe and reiterates the need for the upcoming second round of presidential elections on 27 June to be held in a peaceful, free and fair environment in accordance with international norms and standards," the leaders said.

Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, 84-year-old Mugabe warned that he would not leave power until land was returned to the majority black population, state media reported Friday.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, is the biggest aid donor to Zimbabwe, providing 90.7 million euros last year in humanitarian assistance and other support to its population.

In June 2007, the EU strengthened its 2002 sanctions slapped on Mugabe’s regime, citing repression of the opposition and repeated human rights violations.



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