British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced that he will not attend the European Union-African Union summit slated for December in Lisbon if Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe also attends. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA from London.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's threat was published in an article he wrote for The Independent daily newspaper. He said Mr. Mugabe's attendance would divert attention from important issues that need to be resolved.
A statement released later by the prime minister's office said Mr. Brown might attend if Zimbabwe was represented by another government official.
Mr. Brown said the Zimbabwe leader's attendance would mean a suspension of a travel ban imposed by the European Union on Mr. Mugabe and other Zimbabwe officials for alleged human rights abuses.
The British prime minister blamed Mr. Mugabe for the economic meltdown and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. He said the British government is doing its best to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans and announced an additional $16 million in aid to Zimbabwe.
Britain provides Zimbabwe about $80 million annually in humanitarian assistance and HIV and AIDS care.
Mr. Brown said the travel ban may be extended to include more individuals close to Mr. Mugabe and that he wants to put pressure on the U.N. Security Council to send a humanitarian team to Zimbabwe.
Mr. Brown's threat follows a call by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, to increase pressure on Mr. Mugabe's government. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu also called for a more effective intervention by the prime minister.
British Member of Parliament Kate Hoey who heads the all-party parliamentary committee on Zimbabwe welcomed the prime minister's announcement. She said it would force African leaders to come out against what Mr. Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe.
"There has not been an African Union-European Union summit for some years because of the situation in Zimbabwe," said Hoey. "It would be quite wrong for our country to allow the sanctions, which prevents Mugabe from traveling, to be lifted to allow him to come to this summit because it then would be showing that we felt he was a dictator who we could deal with."
The Zimbabwean government has dismissed Mr. Brown's threat of boycotting the summit by saying he is "wasting his time."
An AFP report quotes Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga as saying Mr. Mugabe was invited and is going to Lisbon whether Gordon Brown attends or not. But Reuters quoted a Portuguese official as saying no decision had been made on whether to invite Mr. Mugabe.
Zimbabwe's government blames western imposed sanctions for the country's problems, but critics of Mr. Mugabe say mismanagement of the economy is the cause.