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EU To Deploy Zimbabwe Election Observers This Week - 2002-02-15

The Zimbabwe government agreed Thursday to allow 26 officials from European Union countries to observe the March presidential elections. But the government continues to delay approval for Sweden's Pierre Schori, the leader of the EU observer team.

The head of the senior EU diplomatic mission in Zimbabwe, Francesa Mosca, called the government approval of the observers "a welcome development." She said that the observers who have been given approval will be deployed throughout the country beginning Friday.

None of the observers is from the six countries, including Sweden, that President Robert Mugabe has refused to allow to send representatives.

Francesca Mosca said the EU mission hoped to get approval soon for Mr. Schori, who has been in Zimbabwe for five days. The media adviser for the EU mission, Stephan Ameer, who is also from Sweden, has so far failed to get approval.

Political analysts in Zimbabwe discount assertions that the government has backtracked over EU accreditation. The analysts point out that the government has all along said that EU countries can observe the March 9 and 10 presidential poll as long as they are not from the six nations Mr. Mugabe has banned, Britain, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

Government approval of the EU observers comes as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says there has been more violence by militants of the ruling ZANU (PF) party.

The MDC says that one of its supporters has been murdered at Buffalo Range, in the southeast of the country, while five others have been kidnapped.

Human rights groups say that at least 25 people, almost all of them opposition supporters, have been killed in political violence since January, and more than 100 in the past year.

The opposition party also says that mobs of ruling party supporters have ransacked its offices at Marondera, 80 kilometers from Harare, the capital, and have besieged offices in other areas.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is the main challenger to President Mugabe in next month's poll.