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Odds Seen Increasing For Mugabe Role In Europe-Africa Summit

Though Portugal has not yet issued invitations for the European Union-African Union Summit it is hosting in December, Lisbon, now holding the EU's rotating chairmanship, is coming under heavy pressure to include a Zimbabwean representative.

Despite British opposition, some say it could be President Robert Mugabe.

The latest call for inclusion of Zimbabwe in the summit came from the EU’s commissioner for external relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who suggested that a top official such as Harare's foreign minister might represent the country.

A German newspaper quoted her as saying that despite Britain’s issues with President Robert Mugabe, Europeans shouldn’t let that hurt their relationship with Africa.

A source at the British Foreign Office said Great Britain does not object to Zimbabwe’s presence at the summit – but does not want President Mugabe there as that will undermine summit discussions.

He added that Prime Minister Gordon Brown has not come to a final decision as to whether he’ll boycott the summit if Mr. Mugabe shows up.

Spokesman Amadu Altsaj for EU Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the summit is about European-African cooperation, not Zimbabwe.

Editor Patrick Smith of the London-based Africa Confidential newsletter said the EU position contemplating Mr. Mugabe’s direct participation is a snub to Britain, and that European officials wanted to avoid seeing the summit called off as in 2003.

Smith told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Brown might in the end be obliged to attend the same summit as Mr. Mugabe - but that the British leader would likely press leaders hard for tough language on Zimbabwe.

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