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Mugabe's Party Doubles Down on E-U Election Observer Ban Ahead of Talks

The ZANU-PF party of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe insisted on Monday it will not allow European Union observers to monitor the country's next vote, as a government delegation readied to resume stalled dialogue with the EU latter this week.

The delegation leaves Harare for Brussels Tuesday hoping the dialogue will lead to the normalization of bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and the European Union.

The EU slapped President Mugabe and some senior ZANU-PF officials and companies with sanctions following the disputed 2002 elections. Some have since been removed from the list.

Observers say the threats by Mugabe's party were meant to put pressure on the Europeans ahead of Thursday's talks. For relations to be restored, ZANU-PF insists on the lifting of the travel and financial measures, but the EU wants comprehensive reforms first.

The party's parliamentary whip Joram Gumbo told VOA the EU would not be accredited for general elections that Mr. Mugabe has demanded this year.

Gumbo accused the bloc of being biased against his party. But he said if the talks resolved the Harare-EU standoff, ZANU-PF would reconsider its position.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer John Makumbe said ZANU-PF's ban on EU observers was ill advised.

The Harare delegation will be led by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Energy Minister Elton Mangoma and Regional Integration Minister Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga.