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Africans' Summit With EU Called Off

European nations disagree over whether to invite Zimbabwe's Mugabe to talks.

February 15, 2003|From Associated Press

BRUSSELS — The European Union on Friday canceled a summit with African leaders because of disagreement over whether to invite President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden were among EU nations strongly opposed to inviting Mugabe to the April 5 summit in Lisbon, Portugal. Other African nations had indicated that they would stay away if Zimbabwe were excluded.

France and Portugal had pushed for the summit to go ahead, arguing that inviting Mugabe would give the 15-nation bloc the opportunity to press Zimbabwe on human rights.

EU spokesman Michael Curtis said that despite the cancellation, "dialogue will continue." Most African countries have lucrative aid and trade deals with the European Union. Britain and France also are deeply divided over how harsh EU sanctions against Zimbabwe should be.

On Wednesday, EU nations decided to renew diplomatic sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year but to allow Mugabe to attend a Franco-African summit in Paris on Tuesday.

The French had threatened to block the extension of sanctions against Mugabe if it did not get an exemption for him to travel to France.

The EU imposed travel restrictions last year to punish Mugabe's government for violating human rights and pursuing policies that have led Zimbabwe into economic and political chaos. The EU also banned the sale of arms to Zimbabwe and froze the country's assets in Europe.

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