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EU Notes Progress in Zimbabwe But Says Won't Lift Sanctions Yet

The European Union says it will only consider lifting sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle if Zimbabwe holds free and fair elections.

The EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell'Ariccia, made the announcement Friday after EU Foreign Secretary Catherine Ashton met with officials from Harare in Brussels.

President Robert Mugabe this week dispatched three ministers to meet EU Foreign Secretary Ashton in Brussels to push the 27-nation bloc to remove targeted sanctions imposed on the 88-year-old leader in 2002 and some other politicians.

Dell'Ariccia, told journalists that the sanctions, which include an asset freeze and travel ban, will remain in place despite Thursday's meeting in Brussels. But he says that could change with meaningful elections.

"The measures were decided further to the electoral situation and very serious human rights in 2002… The elimination of the causes that have led the European Union to impose these measures will entail the elimination of the measures.

"The European Union has been very clear that to have credible elections where people can express freely their wishes… these results is respected by stakeholders... If these happen there is no need to have the measures."

The EU diplomat says Europe notes the progress in Zimbabwe since Mr. Mugabe formed a coalition government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in 2009. But he says more needs to happen.

Regional Integration and International Co-operation Minister Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga was, however, upbeat about the outcome of the meeting.

She told VOA Friday their meeting with Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief was very fruitful.

“We had a very promising meeting but as you know (Catherine) Ashton is not capable of making a decision on the issue of lifting sanctions on her own but we will have to wait for a full EU council meeting for the outcome of whether they will lift the sanctions,” she said.

Misihairambwi-Mushonga said they did not discuss the human rights issue in Zimbabwe, considered one of the key demands by the EU for the lifting of sanctions.

Commentator Effie Dlela Ncube said it will take time for the EU to lift the sanctions since Zanu PF is reluctant to reform.