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EU Waives Travel Ban on Zimbabwean Ministers Aligned With President Mugabe

The European Union has waived travel restrictions on two Zimbabwean minister of the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe so that they can attend a meeting this week in Brussels intended to relaunch trade and development ties between the EU and Zimbabwe.

There were concerns earlier in the week that Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengengi, who are both on the European list of individuals close to Mr. Mugabe subject to travel and financial sanctions, would be denied visas.

But official sources in Harare said Chinamasa departed the capital on Wednesday after receiving a visa from the French embassy. The same sources said Mumbengegwi traveled to Brussels last week on a Schengen visa good for travel in the 27 EU countries.

The two ZANU-PF ministers will join Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the dominant formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, and Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who is secretary general of the Tsvangirai MDC grouping, in Brussels for the meeting.

Mr. Tsvangirai has been on the road for nearly two weeks re-engaging Western governments and seeking what he describes as "transitional support" for the power-sharing government he formed in February with Mr. Mugabe, ending months of post-election turmoil.

But the governing relationship has been uneasy and subject to frequent disagreements over the distribution of key posts and the relative powers of Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai.

The specific objective of the Brussels meeting is to restore and strengthen cooperation between Zimbabwe and the EU under the Cotonou agreement.

Signed between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of States in the Benin city in 2000, the Cotonou pact aims to reduce and in time eradicate poverty while fostering sustainable development and integrating ACP countries into the world economy.

Minister of State Gorden Moyo, attached to Mr. Tsvangirai's office, told reporter Ngungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Harare is doing all it can to renew ties with Europe as with the rest of the world.

Research Director Alex Vines of Chatham House, a London think tank, said Thursday's EU-Zimbabwe meeting is critical, hence the waiver of sanctions on ZANU-PF officials.

Protesting human rights violations and the break down of the rule of law by the former ZANU-PF government, the EU bars more than 200 ZANU-PF officials and allies of President Mugabe from member countries. The sanctions list also includes 40 companies.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tsvangirai continued his European tour in Oslo where he met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, pledged US$8 million in aid which Stoltenberg said would go to non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies.

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