Despite apparent moves by Zimbabwe's leaders to end the crisis which has further divided the fractious African nation, the European Union decided Tuesday, July 22 to widen sanctions against individuals in the country.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai begin negotiations in South Africa as the EU cracks down again
EU foreign ministers added 37 individuals and four "entities" -- probably major companies -- to a list of 130 individuals under a visa ban and asset freeze, officials confirmed, making it the first time business people and companies in Zimbabwe have been targeted by EU measures.
The new sanctions will please Britain, which called for tougher action against Zimbabwe after an attempt to punish the country's leadership through the United Nations was vetoed by Security Council members Russia and China.
"The sanctions that we and others are proposing are designed very much to reinforce the drive for the transition government to reflect the democratic will of the Zimbabwean people," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said as he arrived for the meeting Tuesday.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency until the end of the year said: "Sanctions have played a role; we have to keep up that role."
Mugabe,Tsvangirai start power-sharing talks
As the news of the widening sanctions broke, talks between Zimbabwe's political parties on the formation of a power-sharing government were due to get underway in South Africa, a day after President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai inked an agreement to negotiate.
South African diplomatic sources confirmed to the DPA news agency that the talks would begin Tuesday, but refused to divulge the venue or give other details.
Tsvangirai made the first concilliatory move
On Monday, Mugabe, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a breakaway MDC faction, signed a memorandum of understanding setting out the agenda and the ground rules for the two weeks of talks on the formation of an "inclusive" government.
Mugabe and opposition leader Tsvangirai cemented their accord on talks about a power-sharing government with a much-anticipated handshake.
Despite appeals from onlookers, the two leaders dodged a couple of opportunities to take each other's hand both during and after signing a framework for talks on a unity government at a ceremony in a Harare hotel.
But after they had finished fielding questions from reporters, Tsvangirai rose from his chair and walked over to Mugabe and extended his hand.
Clasping Tsvangirai's hand, Mugabe grabbed third party Mutambara's hand and raised both their hands in the air, in a gesture apparently aimed at casting Mugabe as a unifier.
Before that, following his signing of the accord, Mugabe had called for his Zanu-PF party and Tsvangirai and Mutambara's MDC factions to move together towards "one vision" for Zimbabwe.
Difficult times head for two self-proclaimed winners
Analysts have said it will likely take more than two weeks for Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the MDC to agree on who should lead such a government.
After intimidating his rivals, Mugabe stood alone to win
Mugabe claims he is the legitimate president after being sworn in for a further five years in June following an election run-off he alone contested. Tsvangirai eventually pulled out of the campaign, citing a campaign of intimidation and violence against his supporters that had killed dozens and injured thousands.
Tsvangirai claims he is the country's rightful leader because he won the first round of the presidential elections in March.
Discussions get UN seal of approval
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement between Mugabe and Tsvangirai to hold talks on sharing power and ending the political crisis in that country.
"The secretary general encourages all sides to engage, in good faith, in serious talks that would lead to a lasting solution to the political crisis and address the urgent economic and humanitarian needs of the Zimbabwean people," UN spokeswoman Michelle Montas said.
Montas said Ban commended efforts by South African President Thabo Mbeki and his team to facilitate the signing of the agreement in Harare, providing the framework for the formal talks between the two sides.