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EU Wrangles Over Zimbabwe Sanctions - 2003-01-28

European diplomats are working to find a compromise on sanctions against Zimbabwe, after European Union foreign ministers came to an impasse on the issue Monday.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the European Union presidency, says officials will work to get a compromise this week.

The Union's foreign ministers failed Monday to agree on the renewal of sanctions against Zimbabwe, including a ban on travel by the country's leaders.

The sanctions were put in place one year ago and are due to expire on February 18. The 15-nation European Union imposed a visa ban and other measures on Zimbabwe's leadership as violence surged ahead of the 2002 presidential election, which was widely condemned as being rigged.

But France has asked for a temporary exemption to allow Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to attend a Franco-Africa summit in Paris next month. Other African leaders have threatened to boycott the summit if President Mugabe is not allowed to attend.

At their meeting Monday in Brussels, the EU foreign ministers did not agree to France's request. Now, France is believed to be blocking a renewal of the sanctions, which would expire just before the Paris summit.

Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has expressed disappointment with EU inaction, saying it plays into the hands of President Mugabe's government.

The United States has urged the European Union to enforce the travel ban against President Mugabe and his close associates.