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Britain Rejects Pressure From Former Zimbabwe Ruling Party to Lift EU Sanctions

House of Commons International Development Committee Chairman Malcolm Bruce said Britain has made clear that the key to lifting sanctions is for 'those blocking progress in Zimbabwe' to honor their commitments

Britain has declared that it will not be pressured into lifting travel and financial sanctions aimed at Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle before the 2008 Global Political Agreement is implemented in full.

Malcolm Bruce, chairman of the House of Commons International Development Committee, gave the British position in a statement issued on the arrival of his delegation in Harare on Monday.

Bruce said the British government has “made it clear that the key to having [European Union] restrictive measures lifted is for those blocking progress in Zimbabwe to implement the commitments they signed up to."

Mr. Mugabe and the leaders of the two formations of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, today prime minister and deputy prime minister, respectively, signed the Global Political Agreement for power sharing in September 2008. The pact ended an impasse following national elections marred by deadly violence.

Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC has accused President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party of failing to honor commitments made under that agreement following the inception of a national unity government in February 2009.

Diplomatic sources told VOA that the European Union might ease sanctions on state-controlled enterprises and support the restoration of Zimbabwe's voting rights at the International Monetary Fund, but said travel and financial sanctions against Mr. Mugabe and other key figures would remain in place.

Bruce said such parties must “stop using sanctions as an excuse” not to comply with the terms of the power-sharing agreement. Top EU officials are to meet on February 20 to decide whether to extend the sanctions.

Bruce said he and seven other British members of Parliament are in Zimbabwe for four days to assess the effectiveness of humanitarian aid.

ZANU-PF hardliners in recent days have seized on comments by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband last month to the effect that London would look to Mr. Tsvangirai and his MDC formation for guidance on whether the target sanctions should be lifted. ZANU-PF seized upon his comments as proof that the MDC could influence the West on lifting sanctions.

ZANU-PF insiders report a worrisome resurgence by hardliners, leading to the latest crackdown on MDC members, eleven of whom were arrested Saturday in Mount Darwin, Mashonaland Central, for holding a meeting to discuss the ongoing revision of the Zimbabwean constitution.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation said the latest arrests are boosting tension, and that state media is vilifying Mr. Tsvangirai.

ZANU-PF deputy spokesman Ephraim Masawi declined to comment.

London-based political political analyst Msekiwa Makwanya told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Britain should negotiate directly with ZANU-PF.

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