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Britain Eyes Zimbabwe 'Indigenization,' Presses EU For Rights Envoy


The British government says it is keeping in touch with U.K. companies with operations in Zimbabwe as to the implementation of so-called indigenization legislation passed by the Harare parliament and awaiting signature by President Robert Mugabe.

The legislation would allow the state to take a 51% stake in all companies in which the majority interest is not held by indigenous black Zimbabweans. It remains to be seen if Harare will move to enforce the legislation, once signed by President Mugabe, in the case of foreign owned mining companies and banks, many British-based.

London's stance was clarified Wednesday in a debate in the House of Lords when Minister of State Lord Mark Malloch-Brown of the Foreign and Commonwealth office responded to a question about the risk to British interests posed by the bill.

Contacted today, the Foreign Office initially declined to comment further on the matter, saying the question was "commercially confidential." But a Foreign Office official later reiterated some Malloch-Brown’s points in an e-mail dispatched late Thursday.

British sanctions against top Zimbabwean officials also came up in the Lords debate.

Malloch-Brown said these had not had a great impact as the individuals targeted had "prudently moved their assets out of the UK" before they could be frozen.

Malloch-Brown disclosed that the Foreign Office is "pressing hard" for the European Union to send an envoy to Zimbabwe to assess human rights conditions ahead of a December summit in Lisbon of and African Union leaders.

The Foreign Office communication said Britain is "exploring with EU partners how best an EU envoy could help support the transition to democracy in Zimbabwe, particularly in advance of the elections in 2008." It said Foreign Secretary David Miliband would "discuss this further" with other EU foreign ministers Oct. 15 in Brussels.

Baroness Park of Monmouth, who sits in the House of Lords, told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that however concerned Britain may be about the Zimbabwe crisis, it cannot compel the Harare government to change policies.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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