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EU Diplomats Widen Sanctions Against Zimbabwe

The European Union Tuesday tightened sanctions against Zimbabwe president, Robert Mugabe. The EU foreign ministers added 37 more people to the EU list of individuals under a visa ban and asset freeze that already includes the president and members of his inner circle. Now, for the first time, companies have also been added to the list. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report from VOA's London News Center.

The additional sanctions come a day after President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change agreed to open power sharing talks aimed at solving Zimbabwe's political crisis.

EU spokesman John Clancy tells VOA this is a "very positive step," but there is need to maintain pressure on Mr. Mugabe.

"It's not a simple handshake over a memorandum of understanding despite us recognizing its importance, that suddenly means the international community must simply return to business as usual with Zimbabwe. It's simply not the case. It's very important that the average citizen in Zimbabwe realizes that the international community is not simply going to forget the last months of violence and intimidation that they have had to face coming from the government authorities," he said.

The EU has refused to recognize the result of the June 27 presidential run-off poll in which Mr. Mugabe was the sole candidate. Opposition leader Tsvangirai, who won the first round in March, withdrew from the run-off citing violence against his party and supporters.

Earlier this month, an effort by the British and U.S. governments to impose U.N. Security Council sanctions on Mr. Mugabe was vetoed by Russia and China.

Clancy stressed that the European sanctions target individuals responsible for human rights abuses and not ordinary Zimbabweans. He says the bloc will maintain humanitarian support for Zimbabwe's needy.

"We would like to see as a first step the authorities in Zimbabwe allowing humanitarian aid to the full extent that is should be allowed 100 percent access for international humanitarian aid workers. Let us not forget that Robert Mugabe, his government, his authority blocked humanitarian aid to the civilian population, to the most vulnerable people just days before the second round of the elections. That situation has not changed," he said.

The EU first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 citing human rights abuses and electoral irregularities in the 2002 presidential election. The sanctions also include an arms and military material embargo.

The travel ban does not stop Mr. Mugabe from traveling to international organization meetings such as the United Nations. Earlier this year, he took part in the summit of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome.