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EU-AU Legislators Say Mugabe Ban In Lisbon Could Hobble Summit

The international polemic over whether or not European Union chair Portugal should invite Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to the European-African summit coming up in December in Lisbon seems to be tilting in Mr. Mugabe's favor.

The Czech Republic and Sweden recently threatened to boycott the summit along with Britain if Mr. Mugabe attended, but most European nations seem likely to attend.

This neutral stance was reflected in a declaration Friday by members of the European Parliament and the Pan-African Parliament stated jointly that Mr. Mugabe should be allowed to participate in the summit in his capacity as Zimbabwean president.

The delegation weighed the consequences of a ban on his attendance, warning this would result in a further delay of the EU-AU summit, canceled in 2003 over the very same issue. The European and African parliamentarians said that as they directly represent constituencies, they should have more say on the EU-Africa strategy.

The European and African parliamentarians said they would meet again before the December summit to outline the issues they want placed on the agenda.

Portugal has stated that it will not discriminate against any country or leader.

A senior Portuguese official said the quarrel between Zimbabwe and Britain is bilateral, so it should not overshadow the larger issues the summit will address, such as security, human rights and immigration, adding that Europe could not afford miss another chance to engage Africa, as China and the United States are doing.

The head of the Dutch delegation to the Pan-African Parliament meeting, Maria Martin, told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the position adopted Friday should not be taken as a show of support for Mr. Mugabe.

Rapporteur Marwick Khumalo of the Pan-African Parliament's committee on cooperation, international relations and conflict resolution, said the upcoming summit was bigger than just Zimbabwe and Mr. Mugabe.

Khumalo, a member of the Swaziland parliament, said his organization now has the resources to send mission to Zimbabwe to look into human rights allegations.

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