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EU Calls for Zimbabwe's Mugabe to Step Down


The European Union has added its voice to calls by the United States for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to step down. EU foreign ministers also announced Monday they were tightening sanctions against the Mugabe government.

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels sharply criticized President Robert Mugabe and added 11 more members his regime to a list of people banned from entering Europe.

But the bluntest remarks came from President Sarkozy of France, who said Mr. Mugabe had to go. He made the comments as he addressed a group of well known senior statesmen, known as the Elders, who had been barred for entering Zimbabwe recently when they tried to travel there to to assess the humanitarian situation.

On Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also called on President Mugabe to step down amid a political, economic and humanitarian crisis in the southern African nation. Power-sharing talks between the government and opposition have stalled, inflation has spun out of control and a cholera outbreak has already killed nearly 600 people.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters that international intervention was needed to respond to the cholera outbreak. Not a military intervention, he said, but strong intervention that could help other aspects of Zimbabwe's crisis as well.

The EU ministers also examined calls by the U.N. to send an interim mission to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as a backstop until 3,000 more U.N. peacekeepers arrive.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana says he has "been in touch with the Secretary-General of the United Nations [and] he has asked me to look again at some cooperation with the European Union. Not to substitute for the force which is deployed by the United Nations, but if possible to help in the bridging part for the deployment of the 3,000 plus [troops]."

So far, EU members have been reluctant to volunteer leadership and forces to realize such a mission.

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