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EU Nears Deal to Extend Sanctions Against Zimbabwe - 2003-02-12

The European Union is nearing a deal to extend sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year. But, the deal would allow the country's president, Robert Mugabe, to attend a Franco-African summit in Paris next week.

France has been adamant about inviting Mr. Mugabe to the Franco-African summit because it fears that, if it fails to do so, other African leaders will boycott the meeting, to show their solidarity with the Zimbabwean leader.

A western-European diplomat assigned to the European Union says France threatened to veto renewing the sanctions if it could not invite Mr. Mugabe to the meeting.

The sanctions, that include a visa ban on the Zimbabwean leader, his ministers and senior aides, as well as an arms embargo, are slated to run out next Tuesday. The three-day Franco-African summit begins a day later.

Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden had all objected publicly to Mr. Mugabe going to France.

The European Union imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe last year, accusing Mr. Mugabe's government of violating human rights, persecuting its opponents, and pursuing policies that have led to the country's economic ruin.

Another diplomat says Greece, which holds the EU rotating presidency, wants to conclude a deal this week that will also address the question of an EU-Africa summit to be held in Portugal in April.

Several EU nations have pledged to boycott that meeting if Zimbabwe is allowed to attend. Portugal would prefer that Mr. Mugabe not be present, but it too fears that other African nations will refuse to attend if the Zimbabwean leader is not invited.

The diplomat says Greece is working on a compromise that would involve a separate EU vote on the Portugal meeting.