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Zimbabwe Refuses to Accredit EU Election Observers - 2002-02-13


More European Union presidential election observers have arrived in Zimbabwe. But the standoff continues between the EU observers and the government of Robert Mugabe, over accreditation for next month's election. The head of the EU mission, Sweden's Pierre Schori, is still trying to get permission to observe the voting.

Stephan Ameer, spokesman for the EU observer mission, said Wednesday that 30 observers are in the country. But EU spokesman added that the Zimbabwe government has yet to register any of them.

Mr. Ameer declined to say what action the EU would take if the government still refused to accredit the observers by Friday. In the meanwhile, he said, the EU is continuing its preparations for sending the observers around the country.

The Zimbabwe government says that Mr. Schori is in the country solely as a tourist.

President Robert Mugabe has said that officials from Sweden and five other EU countries are banned from observing the March 9 and 10 election because they are biased against the Zimbabwe government.

But the EU spokesman says none of the 30 observers now in the country are from any of the six banned states.

A 50-strong mission from South Africa has also arrived for the vote. The leader of this group, Sam Motsoenyane, told reporters Wednesday that what he called "credible elections" can still be held, in spite of widespread violence.

Human rights groups say more than 100 people, almost all of them opposition supporters, have been killed in the past year, while thousands have been beaten up or tortured.

Meanwhile, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has described as "baseless" a television video film that purports to show party leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Canada discussing plans for the assassination of Mr. Mugabe and a coup d'etat in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Tsvangirai is the main challenger to President Mugabe in next month's poll.

Learnmore Jongwe, head of information of the MDC said, in his words, "Mr. Tsvangirai has no plan, desire, or motive to eliminate President Mugabe. The MDC president believes in a peaceful and constitutional transfer of power through the ballot box."