/ 22 July 2008

More EU sanctions as Zimbabwe talks loom

European Union foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday to increase sanctions against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s supporters to keep pressure on him to agree to share power with the opposition.

The EU sanctions blacklist of those linked to Mugabe’s government was raised to 172 people, adding 37 individuals and four companies believed to support Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party financially, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

The list already had 131 people on it, including Mugabe and members of his Cabinet, under measures passed in 2002.

”It is impossible to accept the second round of elections in Zimbabwe, with children being tortured, with barbarous acts being committed, with violation of basic democratic rules,” Kouchner told reporters after chairing Tuesday’s talks.

”We want there to be sanctions because sanctions have an effect” to change things, he added.

The foreign ministers said in a statement they had decided to expand sanctions ”against those responsible for the campaign of violence that marked the elections”, and vowed to take additional ”appropriate measures” if Mugabe fails to hand over power to the opposition.

The revised list is subject to a travel ban and assets freeze, and its expansion was meant to keep the pressure on Mugabe to cooperate with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in imminent power-sharing talks.

The EU ministers also agreed to tighten a travel ban on Mugabe.

Under new rules, all member nations will have to approve a visit to an EU country before he would be allowed to enter the 27-nation bloc. Previously, only a majority needed to approve his visits.

They also agreed to study further measures, notably on dissuading European companies from doing business with Mugabe’s government, due to concerns he and his ministers are using businesses to move around their cash.

The 37 new names include military chiefs and a journalist from a pro-Mugabe newspaper.

The 27 EU ministers also concluded that Mugabe’s June re-election in a presidential run-off vote was ”illegitimate” and they welcomed negotiations between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said a face-to-face meeting between Mugabe and Tsvangirai on Monday was only ”a first step”, and EU nations were expecting more proof that Mugabe was willing to sign up to a transitional government with the opposition.

”It requires an end to the violence, it requires an end to the ban on humanitarian NGOs getting around Zimbabwe. Those are the first steps toward a resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis,” Miliband told reporters.

The bloc also has in place a ban on arms sales. — Sapa-AP