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EU: Won’t Lift Sanctions on Mugabe Until Free & Fair Elections in Zimbabwe

 Aldo Dell 'Ariccia, European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe gives a press conference, Harare, May 8, 2012.

Aldo Dell 'Ariccia, European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe gives a press conference, Harare, May 8, 2012.

The European Union says it will only consider lifting sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his political allies if Zimbabwe holds free and fair elections. The EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell’Ariccia, made the announcement on Friday after EU Foreign Secretary Catherine Ashton met with Zimbabwe officials in Brussels.

This week President Robert Mugabe dispatched three ministers to meet EU Foreign Secretary Ashton in Brussels to push the 27-nation bloc to remove targeted sanctions imposed on the 88-year-old leader in 2002 and some other politicians.

On Friday, the EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell’Ariccia, told journalists that the sanctions - which include an asset freeze and travel ban - will remain in place despite the Thursday meeting in Brussels. But he says that could change with meaningful elections.

“The measures were decided further to the electoral situation and very serious human rights in 2002," said Dell’Ariccia. "The elimination of the causes that have led the European Union to impose these measures will entail the elimination of the measures. The European Union has been very clear that to have credible elections where people can express freely their wishes. These results is respected by stakeholders. If these happen there is no need to have the measures.”

The EU diplomat says Europe notes the progress in Zimbabwe since Mugabe formed a coalition government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in 2009. But he says more needs to happen.

The uneasy and divisive coalition government was formed in the aftermath of flawed elections. Mugabe had claimed victory but regional leaders did not recognize it because of violence and intimidation of the opposition. About 200 supporters of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change were killed, while thousands were displaced by suspected militia tied to Mugabe’s Zanu PF.