- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

BRUSSELS The European Union imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government yesterday and ordered home its 30-member election observer team.
The EU said it took the action because Zimbabwe refused to let its observers freely monitor next month's presidential election.
At a meeting, the EU foreign ministers agreed that Mr. Mugabe's government had "prevented the deployment of an EU election observation mission."
"The EU remains seriously concerned at political violence, serious violations of human rights and restrictions on the media … which call into question the prospects for a free and fair election," they said in a statement.
The EU ministers imposed "targeted sanctions" that were to be effective immediately, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique said.
The measures include cutting off $110 million in development aid for 2002-07, banning travel to the EU for Mr. Mugabe and 20 of his Cabinet ministers, and freezing their assets in Europe.
Mugabe spokesman George Charamba did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Zimbabwe has said it won't accept observers from EU members Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Britain or the Netherlands, all accused of favoring Mr. Mugabe's opposition.
The sanctions came two days after Zimbabwe forced Pierre Schori head of a 30-member EU team monitoring the March 9-10 presidential election to leave, prompting the showdown with the 15-nation bloc that threatened to further isolate the southern African country.
Mr. Schori attended the EU meeting and recommended against sanctions, but he said he agreed that the observers had to come home to spare them physical abuse and insult.
"There was no ground for an effective and credible EU mission," he said. He added that Zimbabwean officials took an "aggressive approach" against all EU personnel, including diplomats.
The EU has been urging Mr. Mugabe's government for weeks to improve political freedoms and curb violence by supporters of his ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front party, also known as ZANU-PF.
EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said Europe's quarrel was "not with the people [of Zimbabwe] but with Mugabe and his cronies." He said humanitarian aid would continue.
Journalists from Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, were denied accreditation, along with several other reporters from other European countries and South Africa.
A few U.S. media organizations, including the Associated Press, have been denied permission to bring in foreign reporters.
Mr. Mugabe, 77, is fighting for his political survival and has imposed various restrictions on both journalists and opposition parties to ensure victory.
For the past two years, Zimbabwe has been wracked by political violence that opposition supporters, human rights activists and many international officials blame on the ruling party.
[The violence continued yesterday, when hundreds of government supporters hurled stones at the headquarters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, smashing windows and forcing pedestrians to flee, witnesses and the opposition told the Reuters news agency.
[About 200 ZANU-PF members broke away from a march through Harare and attacked the MDC offices. No injuries were reported.]


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