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British PM Brown Said To Harden Line On Mugabe Summit Attendance

Britain would accept the presence of a Zimbabwean delegation at the European-African summit in December, but has told the Portuguese hosts that Prime Minister Gordon Brown would not attend if President Robert Mugabe is there, reports said.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband laid down Britain’s position on Mr. Mugabe’s attendance more clearly than ever before during a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Viana do Castelo, Portugal, Agence France Presse reported Saturday.

Diplomatic sources told AFP that Brown “would not be there if Mugabe goes." AFP quoted a senior British official as saying “it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the British prime minister and other EU leaders will attend a summit at which Mugabe is present.” It quoted Miliband himself as saying that “I don’t think anyone wants to be part of a media circus in December" as "there is serious work to be done."

Portugal’s Lusa news agency reported from London this week that officials there said the United Kingdom would not object to the presence of a high-level Zimbabwean delegation so long as it doesn’t include Mr. Mugabe.

A Foreign Office spokesman told the Portuguese news agency,“We always said we’d like Zimbabwe to be represented, but we don’t want it to be Mr. Mugabe, because we believe that could cast a shadow over the summit.”

He said London is “discussing various solutions with our partners.”

Top European officials have suggested Zimbabwe might be represented by the country’s foreign minister. Portuguese President Cavaco Silva made the same suggestion at the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week.

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