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Europeans Unanimous In Renewing Sanctions Against Harare Elites

The European Union handed Harare its second diplomatic setback in a week with the renewal of sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his entourage.

Renewed for one year, the sanctions ban travel within the EU by 125 persons on the European sanctions list, imposes an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and allows EU authorities to freeze the financial assets of those targeted if they are located.

Diplomatic sources said the vote for extension was unanimous and was taken without debate at the start of a ministerial meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Many took the French decision not to invite President Mugabe to its Franco-African Summit in Cannes last week as a clear signal of a European consensus on the issue of Zimbabwe sanctions, as France had previously questioned their effectiveness.

Amadu Altasaj, a spokesman for European Commissioner Louis Michel, responsible for development and humanitarian aid, told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, that Harare’s unchanged position over the years provided no basis upon which the EU ministers could discontinue the sanctions.

AFP quoted Zimbabwean Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga as calling the sanctions "the same old story" and saying they made no difference to Harare.

Another government spokesman, Principal Director for Public and Interactive Affairs William Nhara, said that the European sanctions were unjustified.

Attorney Otto Saki of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he had expected the EU to renew the sanctions as the human rights situation in Zimbabwe has been deteriorating.

Editor Patrick Smith of the London-based newsletter Africa Confidential told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye that despite the EU decision, much could change in Harare's favor by November, when Portugal is expected to host an EU-Africa summit.

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