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EU slams Mugabe, threatens new Zimbabwe sanctions

13 October 2008, 21:36 CET

(LUXEMBOURG) - The European Union Monday condemned Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's "unilateral decision" to form a new government and warned of fresh sanctions unless he respects a power-sharing deal.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg slammed, in a joint statement, "the unilateral decision to form a new government which has not been agreed by all parties."

They said they were "ready to contemplate additional measures" if the power-sharing deal agreed last month by Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai continues to be blocked.

As he entered the Luxembourg talks, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband blasted Mugabe's "attempted power grab."

"I think it is very important that a European signal goes out that we will have no part, and play no part, in supporting a power grab by the Mugabe regime," Miliband told reporters.

He added that it was important that there be "an international united response that says that the results of the (Zimbabwean) elections need to be respected and that a power grab will not be respected."

The call from the former British colonial power came as Mugabe swore in two vice presidents Monday.

Zimbabwean state media announced two days earlier that Mugabe had decided to give his own party all key cabinet posts, prompting opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to threaten to pull out of the deal.

Under the power-sharing deal signed four weeks ago, 84-year-old Mugabe retains the presidency while Tsvangirai takes the new post of prime minister.

But the agreement hit a deadlock when the two men could not agree on how to divide the most important cabinet positions, including defence, home affairs and finance.

The agreement is meant to end months of political turmoil, after the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won control of parliament in March.

Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, defeated Mugabe in the first round of the presidential vote, but pulled out of a runoff citing political violence that the MDC says left more than 100 of his supporters dead.

"We are certainly not going to abandon Mr Tsvangirai," said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, describing the opposition leader as "valorous and courageous".

South Africa's former president Thabo Mbeki was expected to arrive in Harare later Monday to meet with negotiators from the rival parties to try to salvage the deal he brokered four weeks ago.

The EU foreign ministers encouraged Mbeki to seek to get the power-sharing deal respected "without delay."

The Europeans also voiced concern at "the deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe" and called on the authorities there to allow unrestricted humanitarian access.

The European Union had hoped in September -- when the deal for a government of national unity was agreed -- to resume economic aid to Zimbabwe, suspended since 2002, and to lift its existing sanctions.

The 27 foreign ministers said Monday that they had not lost all hope of doing so.

The EU stands ready to adopt, as soon as the September 15 agreement "is actually implemented" a raft of measures to support democracy and help the country economically and socially, their text said.

Some 168 members of the Zimbabwe regime, including Mugabe and his wife Grace, are banned from entering EU nations and their European assets have been frozen.

According to one European diplomat, the EU member states could decide to add ten more names to the persona non grata list

Four enterprises which support the regime financially have also had sanctions slapped on them.

General Affairs and External Relations Council

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