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Negotiations Continue Over EU Mission to Zimbabwe - 2002-02-12

Zimbabwe and the European Union (EU) continued negotiations Tuesday over accreditation of the EU observer mission for the country's March 9-10 presidential elections. The EU has been trying to get official approval for two days.

Pierre Schori, head of the EU mission, told reporters that he is "seeking official clarification" over reports in the state media that a separate EU mission will not be allowed to register.

Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge is quoted by state media as saying that the EU can only be part of a larger observer mission from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

Foreign Minister Mudenge is also quoted as saying that Mr. Schori is banned because he is from Sweden, one of six countries that President Robert Mugabe says are excluded from observing the elections.

President Mugabe accuses the six of being biased against him and his government. Mr. Mugabe will face Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), in the March election.

Mr. Schori, who arrived in the country on Sunday, said no official response had been received from the Zimbabwe government.

Mr. Schori was asked if the EU will carry out its threat to impose targeted sanctions if election registration for the observers is refused. "We are not in the sanctions business. We are here to observe the elections," he said.

He said it was up to European ministers in Brussels to decide what to do.

Mr. Schori says the mission is continuing with its preparations for the elections, with more observers arriving this week. The EU plans to have 150 observers by polling day.