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Last Updated: Monday, 21 February, 2005, 15:15 GMT
Europe renews Zimbabwe sanctions
Zanu-PF supporter
Zanu-PF is widely expected to win the forthcoming polls
European Union foreign ministers have renewed sanctions against Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe for another year.

However, they said the measures - a response to the political and human rights situation - could be re-examined after next month's parliamentary poll.

The extension, which came on the day Mr Mugabe celebrated his 81st birthday, was passed unanimously without debate.

The sanctions include a ban on Mr Mugabe and other government officials from travelling to EU countries.

They were first implemented three years ago.

Mugabe defiant

Foreign critics have said President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF rigged parliamentary elections in 2000 and the 2002 presidential poll, and accuse the government of widespread human rights abuses.

The sanctions apply to all senior Zimbabwean officials "who commit human rights violations and restrict freedom of opinion, association and peaceful protest", according to an EU resolution. Last year, the ban was extended from 79 to 95 people.

Other sanctions include a ban on arms sales and the freezing of Zimbabwean assets in European banks.

Mr Mugabe said on Sunday that he wanted the 31 March parliamentary elections to be a peaceful victory that would be a lesson for his critics at home and abroad.

He said he hoped his Zanu-PF party would win a massive victory over the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that would undercut criticism from the MDC and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who he says sponsors the opposition.

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