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Europe Shifts Strategy But Still Opposes Mugabe Role In EU-AU Summit

Contrary to reports that Harare’s critics among Western nations have adopted a softer stance on allowing President Robert Mugabe to attend a European-African summit in December – this based on recent comments from British and German officials - diplomatic and analytical sources say the only change is one of tactics.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the end of last week’s Group of Eight Summit that the E.U.-Africa summit coming up later this year should not be derailed if President Robert Mugabe forces the issue and decides to show up.

The previous week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in South Africa, expressed his support for President Thabo Mbeki’s efforts to mediate a solution in Zimbabwe with the ruling ZANU-PF party, and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Some took such comments as reflecting concern the Europe -Africa Summit might fall victim to discord over Mr. Mugabe’s participation, as did a 2003 summit.. African countries boycotted the summit when European excluded Mr. Mugabe.

However, a British Foreign Office source cautioned against interpreting the outgoing prime minister’s comments as indicating any softening of the U.K. position, saying Mr. Blair simply wanted to give Mr. Mbeki’s mediation a chance.

Britain will gauge progress in those talks when leaders of the Southern African Development Community meet in August.

Director Chris Lanceberg of the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the modified Western strategy on Zimbabwe makes sense.

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