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EU Pressures Zimbabwe to Respect Rights - 2002-01-11

The European Union has joined the United States and other nations in calling on Zimbabwe to stop political violence, remove restrictions on the media and allow free presidential elections in March.

EU officials delivered the message during talks in Brussels with a delegation from Zimbabwe headed by Foreign minister Stanislaus Mudenge.

EU representatives, led by Spanish ambassador Javier Conde de Saro, listed complaints about alleged human rights abuses that violate the organization's trade and aid pact with African, Caribbean and Pacific nations.

The EU also appealed to the government of President Robert Mubage to end what is described as the illegal occupation of white-owned farms. EU officials say the Zimbabwean foreign minister stressed the importance of land reform during the meeting and accused Britain of plotting against its former colony.

Zimbabwe's parliament, where President Mugabe's ruling party has a comfortable majority, passed two sweeping laws on Thursday. One bans independent monitors at the poll and the other gives sweeping new security powers to the government.

However, a representative of the African, Caribbean and Pacific nations said Foreign Minister Mudenge agreed to allow foreign observers to monitor the March balloting.

The European Union is considering sanctions against Zimbabwe because of the deteriorating political situation there. International criticism against the Mugabe government has mounted over its seizure of white-owned farms and attempts to tighten control of the media and opposition in the face of a collapsing economy.

Britain said Thursday the laws passed in Harare showed the government's "contempt for basic democratic principles". Zimbabwe also risks suspension from the Commonwealth, the group composed mostly of former British colonies, with both Australia and New Zealand calling for the move.