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Europeans Divided Over Maintenance Of Sanctions Against Harare

Some tension has emerged between Britain and other European Union nations over whether the targeted sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe since 2002 should be renewed upon their expiration early next year, as London strongly feels they should.

Divisions emerged during a recent EU summit in Brussels at which Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates said Portugal, which will host an EU-Africa summit 2007, wants to invite President Robert Mugabe along with all other African leaders.

France has also indicated its intention to relax travel sanctions: it invited Mr. Mugabe to take part in the France-Africa summit it is holding in Cannes in February.

On Thursday, two large European labor organizations weighed in on the question and urged the EU Commission to maintain sanctions against Harare. The International Trade Union Confederation and the European Trade Union Confederation said in a joint letter that “at a time when trade unionists in Zimbabwe have been so savagely attacked and as the Zimbabwean economy descends into disaster, it would send completely the wrong signal if the EU backed down on sanctions now."

EU targeted or "smart" sanctions against Zimbabwe, which include travel restrictions on senior officials in the Harare government and other Mugabe associates, as well as the freezing of financial assets when located, are up for renewal in February.

Portugal, Spain and other EU countries are reported to be arguing for those sanctions to be lifted, while Britain is lobbying for them to be maintained.

British parliamentarian Kate Hoey, who has been outspoken on Zimbabwe and highly critical of the Mugabe government, recently tabled a motion that was signed by some 100 other members, urging the renewal of European Union targeted sanctions.

Hoey told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the British government is determined to see the sanctions renewed because there has been no change in Harare's policies or human rights record to warrant lifting them.

An EU official said members will meet next month to discuss the Zimbabwe issue. The official said there are hopes for progress with Harare at the EU-Africa summit.

But program manager Pedzisai Ruhanya of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said he does not see Britain succumbing to pressure on the point of Zimbabwe sanctions.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...