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EU Ambassador Says No Decision Yet on Zimbabwe Sanctions

The European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell'Ariccia dismissed reports Friday that the EU is set to lift sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and top officials of his Zanu PF party.

A British newspaper said this week the EU will remove the measures it imposed in 2002 in protest of bad governance by Mr. Mugabe and his lieutenants.

But Ambassador Dell'Ariccia told VOA "nothing has been decided yet."

“Discussions are ongoing, so we don’t know what is the origin of this news, but I can tell you that it is not the case," he said. "It’s not what is written in a British newspaper that should be taken into consideration for that.”

The ambassador said the sanctions, including an arms embargo, are only due for review next February, unless the Harare situation improves, which may trigger an earlier consideration.

The UK Daily Telegraph claimed that the finalization of Zimbabwe's new constitution will pave the way for a meeting in Brussels next month where the sanctions deal would be sealed.

Ambassador Dell'Ariccia added that discussions were currently underway between Harare and the EU to review general cooperation under the Cotonou Agreement that was suspended by the EU in 2002, resulting in the suspension of aid through government because of human rights violations.

“The deadline for the review of the approbate measures, not the restrictive ones, but the approbate measures that refer to the cooperation between the European Union and Zimbabwe is due on the 20th of August.

“The discussions are going on now because the idea was that maybe, the Foreign Affairs council of the 23rd of July, a decision would be taken on the approbate measures and possibly on other measures based on the assessment of the situation. But the fact is that there is no decision yet.”

Observers believe the EU will take this opportunity to reconsider the cooperation aspect, but maintain the sanctions on some members of Mr. Mugabe's party to put pressure on them to implement meaningful reforms.

The political changes expected by the international community, including the EU, include a new constitution, the adoption of rights laws and holding of violence-free elections.

However, political parties in the unity government and the Southern African Development Community continue to demand the unconditional removal of the sanctions, saying they are impacting ordinary Zimbabweans.

Activists disagree. Human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba says Harare has yet to implement reforms that warrant the removal of sanctions, adding the measures should remain.

“You describe them as sanctions the moment a bloc has said we are suspending cooperation fully," Shumba said. "But in this case the U.S. and the EU continue to be the biggest supporters of humanitarian aid in Zimbabwe.”