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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 12:51 GMT
EU observers await Zimbabwe fate
An opposition supporter puts up an election poster
The election is Mr Mugabe's toughest challenge yet
The European Commission is seeking to clarify whether the Zimbabwean Government has refused to accredit its chief election observer.

On Monday, Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge appeared to rule out the possibility of Sweden's UN ambassador, Pierre Schori, who is now in Harare, being given accreditation because he comes from one of six European countries not invited to observe the March poll.

Banned EU countries
Sweden
Britain
Germany
The Netherlands
Denmark
Finland

Mr Mudenge told state television on Monday that there was no invitation to the EU; just to nine European countries invited to observe the presidential election in an individual capacity.

A spokeswoman in Brussels said the commission hoped to learn on Wednesday whether this was official policy.

Pierre Schori
Mr Schori is already in Zimbabwe

Another EU official said the EU member states would then decide whether or not to impose sanctions.

If implemented, the sanctions would include a travel ban on Mr Mugabe, his family and close associates, a freeze on any assets they might hold in EU member states, and a suspension of long-tem development aid.

The EU members have also said they will impose those sanctions if they believe that the voting has not been free and fair, or if media coverage of it is restricted.

Observers

A team of 30 European election observers are due in Zimbabwe on Tuesday.

Mr Schori has said he intends to start training them this week, while they await accreditation.


Anybody else who comes... he or she comes as a tourist, and we have not yet banned tourists from Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge

The EU intends to deploy 150 observers for the vote.

President Robert Mugabe has allowed EU officials to monitor the poll, but objected to representatives from six EU states, which have strongly criticised the seizure of white-owned farmland by his supporters.

Sanctions

Human rights groups have warned of a "climate of fear and terror" in the run-up to the elections, when President Robert Mugabe is expected to face his toughest challenge in 22 years of power.

Zimbabwe farmer William Gau says he was attacked by two suspected war veterans
Human rights groups say there is a 'climate of fear'

Earlier on Monday two petrol bombs were hurled into the offices of Zimbabwe's main independent daily newspaper, The Daily News, in the second city of Bulawayo.

Two petrol bombs were also thrown at the offices of a nearby private printing house, Daily Print, which has been handling campaign material for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

A Daily News journalist said that nobody was injured and very little equipment damaged in their office.

The attack followed threats from ruling party supporters.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"The monitors have thus far no permission to operate"
See also:

11 Feb 02 | Africa
Newspaper attack in Zimbabwe
06 Feb 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe's climate of fear
04 Feb 02 | Africa
Mugabe evades EU sanctions
03 Feb 02 | Africa
Mugabe opponent enters fray
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