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EU to Hold High Level Talks With Zimbabwe

Senior European Union officials are heading to Zimbabwe for the first high-level visit between the EU and the southern African nation in seven years. But the EU has ruled out lifting sanctions against Zimbabwe for now.

European Union Aid Commissioner Kerel De Gucht and International Development Cooperation Minister Gunilla Carlsson of Sweden - which holds the rotating EU presidency - are traveling to Zimbabwe following an EU-South Africa summit on Friday.

The Europeans will hold talks with Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, along with NGO representatives and others. Their visit is the first high level mission to Zimbabwe by the EU since 2002.

It also follows meetings by Mr. Tsvangirai in Brussels in June, when he called for ties between the two sides to be restored.

"I would like to welcome the opportunity for Zimbabwe and the EU to re-establish normal relations," he said. "Zimbabwe has been isolated for the last 10 years and for whatever reason, it is our hope that we should re-establish normal relations with the EU."

But on Thursday, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt rejected calls by southern African leaders for the EU to end its sanctions against Zimbabwe. In remarks in Johannesburg, Reinfeldt said mismanagement and lack of respect for human rights were the cause of Zimbabwe's problems, not EU sanctions.

The aim of the EU visit is to ensure Zimbabwe's power sharing agreement is properly implemented. If this happens, European officials say, the EU can then consider fully re-engaging with Zimbabwe.