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Britain Expresses Optimism On EU Renewal of Zimbabwe Sanctions

A member of Britain's House of Lords, speaking for the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, said London will renew sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and other Zimbabwean officials, and will press the European Union to follow suit.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon told her fellow peers that the government expected the European Union to renew the sanctions against Zimbabwe's ruling elite.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Lord Eric Avebury said Britain would vote for renewal of the sanctions when EU foreign ministers gather on January 23.

The EU sanctions list names 126 individuals including President Mugabe and his wife Grace along with cabinet members and other top officials and Mugabe associates.

Some of Britain's European partners, including France, Spain and Portugal, want to ease the restrictions which ban travel to the United States and Europe by President Robert Mugabe and his cabinet - excepting United Nations meetings – and allow their financial assets when identified to be frozen. France has invited Mr. Mugabe to attend a France-Africa summit in February, and Portugal, which currently holds the EU presidency, would like Zimbabwe to take part in an EU-Africa summit in 2007.

Portuguese officials have expressed the fear that other African countries might boycott the summit if President Mugabe and his top aides are not invited.

Lord Avebury told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he is confident Europe will maintain the sanctions despite reports of EU divisions.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...