Brown seeks European support on action over Zimbabwe

By staff writers
17 Oct 2007

Zimbabwe is seeking to put pressure on other European Union countries to back off Britain's tough stance on human rights there, as the diplomatic debate over Prime Minister Gordon Brown's proposal to send an envoy to the country continues.

The Brown plan is to send a representative, under the aegis of the European Union, ahead of the landmark EU-Africa summit set to be held in Lisbon, Portugal, in December 2007.

The British PM had indicated that he may boycott the summit if President Mugabe attended, but now favours a more co-ordinated response aimed at wringing changes out of the Zimbabwean regime - which stands accused internationally of wrecking the country and leaving a large proportion of its citizens at or near destitution.

According to media reports, Germany and some other EU states are hesistant about the latest idea, while the Nordic states agree with Mr Brown.

Churches and human rights groups insist that it is appropriate and necessary to keep the international spotlight on Mugabe.

The British PM told the media last week: "I will not attend. No senior government minister will attend. We are not prepared to sit at the same table as Mr Mugabe because we are not prepared to give any suggestion that we condone what is an abuse of human rights in his country, the poverty and degradation of his people and the unacceptable behaviour of him as president."

The UK still has full diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe and has not closed down its embassy in Harare because of the implications this would have regionally and for people in the country.

A Foreign Office spokesperson says that the UK is "exploring ideas with our partners." South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been accused by human rights campaigners of being over-accommodating to Mr Mugabe, is known to oppose the possibility of an EU envoy at present.

He argues that talks between the ruling Zimbabwean Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change are at a critical stage and should be given a further chance.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's Information Minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, who is trying to talk up a "row" in Europe has said that other EU countries should tell Britain to "shut up", and the regime is seeking an African alliance around opposition to European intervention.

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