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ZANU-PF Justice Minister in Europe for 'Sanctions' Talks

One of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's closest lieutenants is at the European Union to discuss lifting travel and financial restrictions on the ZANU-PF Party and some of its companies.

Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, of the ZANU-PF Party, along with members of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, and a smaller MDC faction, are meeting with European Union officials in Brussels. They are discussing eight-year-old travel and financial restrictions against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF Party and some government institutions judged to have financially supported ZANU-PF.

The meeting follows months of negotiations to have the European Union travel ban waived for Chinamasa. During the past decade, the European Union, the United States and other Western nations have imposed restrictions against Mr. Mugabe and his close allies for alleged political repression and human-rights abuses.

Mr. Mugabe says the restrictions, which he calls sanctions, have caused the collapse of Zimbabwe's economy. Most financial analysts in the private sector in Harare say the economy collapsed because Zimbabwe's main foreign currency earner, agricultural exports, ended when Mr. Mugabe began seizing productive white-owned farms that grew most of the valuable crops.

South Africa, the Southern African Development Community and the African Union have called for an end to the restrictions imposed by the E.U. and the U.S.

One of the restricted companies is the state's Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, which is in joint ventures with two mining companies extracting rough stones from controversial diamond fields in southeastern Zimbabwe. According to Israeli diamond analyst, Chaim Even-Zohar, even if the international regulator certifies those rough stones for export, few international banks would be able to authorize payment for them, because of the E.U. and U.S. restrictions.

The visit by the Zimbabwe delegation to the European Union is part of the outstanding issues of the political agreement that underpins the 16-month old unity government. The agreement committed the three political parties to ensure the E.U. and U.S. restrictions were lifted.

European Union diplomats in southern Africa say there are differing views on retaining the Zimbabwe restrictions among its 35 member states.