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Europe

EU To Act Against Zimbabwe

The European Union is expected to approve sanctions against Zimbabwe on Monday after President Robert Mugabe expelled the head of an EU election observer team.

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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe had a top EU election observer thrown out of the country.

The European Union has threatened to impose targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his closest associates if Zimbabwe hampers the work of its election observer mission. The proposed sanctions would include a visa ban and a freeze on overseas assets, according to the EU foreign ministers.

Brussels has also threatened to take action if Zimbabwe denies international media free access to cover the election on March 9-10.

The 15 EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday to discuss the move. "I think it is very likely that sanctions will be adopted after the latest news we had," Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana told reporters as he arrived for the meeting.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel echoed Solana's comments, saying the EU could lose credibility at this stage if it did not impose sanctions. "I think it is very difficult not taking actions because it is not acceptable, this way of behaving," he said. France, however, is generally sceptical about the effectiveness of sanctions.

Top observer expelled

The head of the EU election observer mission, Swedish diplomat Pierre Schori, was forced to leave Zimbabwe on Saturday. Authorities cancelled his visa, accusing him of "political arrogance". However, his team of more than 30 observers did receive accreditation and has not been expelled.

Schori said he found his expulsion to be ridiculous. "They are trying to fabricate a bad case on semi-legal grounds, but the whole thing is absurd," he told reporters after arriving in London from Zimbabwe. Asked whether there was any chance of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, Schori told Britain's Channel 4 television news that it "doesn't look bright".

Other issues on the agenda

The 15 ministers will not only be addressing the Zimbabwe issue. They are also expected to discuss the situation in the Middle East, as well as the bloc's plans for enlargement into ex-communist eastern Europe.

An important decision is also whether the EU is willing to take over the successor mission to the International Police Force in Bosnia Herzegovina. This would be the EU’s first crisis management operation.

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