Britain set to call for new Zim sanctions

Britain will call on the European Union to extend sanctions against members of Zimbabwe’s ruling elite as the country’s humanitarian crisis plumbs new depths, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Thursday.

The declaration in an interview with ITV News came after Brown threatened to veto a planned European Union-Africa Union summit in December if Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe was also present.

”We are prepared to consider further sanctions. There are, in fact, 130 people or so who are subject to these sanctions. I believe that these sanctions could be extended to the families of people so more people could be under sanctions,” he said.

”We will be prepared to extend these sanctions and we will do so with proposals to the European Union in the next few days,” he added. ”This is a tragedy that requires the whole of the world to speak up and also to act.”

Unemployment in Zimbabwe is running at 80% and inflation is about 6 600% as the country’s once-thriving agrarian economy collapses.

Critics blame the crisis on Mugabe’s policy of seizing white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks while the government blames international sanctions.

Crops are failing, a price freeze has cleared supermarket shelves of most staple foods and starvation is rife.

Mugabe, in power since the former Rhodesia won independence from Britain in 1980, says the land reforms are simply correcting the wrongdoings of the colonial past.

Britain and others accuse Mugabe of running the country into the ground for personal gain and accuse the Zanu-PF government of gross corruption, incompetence and human rights violations.

”This is a shocking tragedy … it is something that you know and I know is getting worse as a result of the failure of President Mugabe to respond to what the world is saying and to the events in his own country,” Brown said.

Brown urged the international community to do everything it can to relieve human suffering in Zimbabwe and support South African President Thabo Mbeki’s efforts to solve the political crisis there.

”The lead that we’re taking is raising the matter through the United Nations, working through the European Union, supporting the African Union, supporting President Mbeki in his efforts, stepping up the sanctions where necessary, refusing to participate in events with President Mugabe,” he said.

”All these decisions that we are making are an indication that not only is there an abhorrence in Britain about what’s happening, but there’s a growing worldwide opinion,” he added.

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