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European Union To Send Envoy To Zimbabwe Before Summit

The European Union will send an envoy to Zimbabwe ahead of the European-African summit next month in Lisbon at which European ministers have promised to deliver a “very firm and very clear” message to President Robert Mugabe.

Portugal, which holds the EU presidency and is hosting the summit, is under pressure to mollify European member states which opposed Mr. Mugabe's participation in the summit but were overruled by the loose consensus among European states that all African countries should be involved, and African solidarity with Mr. Mugabe.

Britain was most staunchly opposed to Mr. Mugabe's participation, though backed by Sweden and the Netherlands. Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared that no senior official of his government would attend the summit if Mr. Mugabe were present.

But a number of European nations nonetheless insisted Mr. Mugabe be confronted with his record on human rights as well as the country's ever-steeper decline, and put pressure on Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado at a top-level meeting Monday in Brussels to send an envoy to the country and region to assess conditions.

In a statement issued following that meeting of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, Amado said the EU will send a "very firm and very clear message" to Mr. Mugabe about "the development of the situation in his country."

Amado explained to reporters in Brussels why an envoy needs to be sent.

Editor Patrick Smith of the Africa Confidential newsletter in London said it is clear that Portugal is under pressure to ensure the summit addresses the Zimbabwe crisis.

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