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Sunday, 17 February, 2002, 08:25 GMT
Zimbabwe forces out top EU observer
MDC poster
Mugabe faces his toughest challenge yet from the MDC
The Zimbabwean Government has forced the head of the European Union's election observer mission to leave the country, raising the prospect of EU sanctions against President Mugabe's regime.


Leaving Harare today my feelings are more of sorrow than of anger

Pierre Schori
Pierre Schori, who was in Zimbabwe on a tourist visa having been refused accreditation by the country's government, flew out of the country on Saturday night to London.

Mr Schori's departure came as Zimbabwe's state TV reported a visit by Mr Mugabe to Mozambique on Sunday to discuss the elections and the "situation in the country" with regional leaders.

Mr Mugabe is expected to hold talks with President Joaquim Chissano and Bakili Muluzi, president of Malawi and chairman of the South African Development Community (SADC).

The SADC is on Monday expected to start sending observers for the presidential elections, but analysts say the organisation lacks the political will to enforce Mr Mugabe's assertions that the poll will be free and fair.

'Sorrow'

Mr Schori's visa, which had a week left to run, was cancelled on Saturday and he was given another visa set to expire at midnight.

"Leaving Harare today my feelings are more of sorrow than of anger," he said before boarding his flight out of the country.

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips says the EU now faces a difficult dilemma: whether to impose sanctions and pull out its 30 monitors, or stay in the hope their presence may reduce violence in the run up to the 9-10 March poll.

Pierre Schori
Mr Schori had "breached" visa conditions, Zimbabwean minister said

The EU is due to consider the issue on Monday.

Mr Schori refused to comment on the chances of sanctions being applied, saying the issues would be decided by EU foreign ministers when they meet in Brussels on Monday.

It was not immediately clear what, if anything, Mr Schori had done wrong. But he had been warned by Zimbabwean officials that his tourist status meant he should not talk about the upcoming election.

He called Zimbabwe's demands that he not talk with journalists "surprising and unacceptable".

Zimbabwe's Home Affairs Minister, John Nkomo, told the BBC that Mr Schori had violated the conditions under which his visa was granted.

Challenge to Mugabe

Zimbabwe's Government says it will not be bullied into accepting observers from countries deemed hostile to Mr Mugabe.

The government has already said that six European countries are not allowed to send observers.

The government accuses Britain, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, is set to pose the toughest challenge yet to Mr Mugabe's 22-year hold on power in the March election.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Claire Marshall
"30 observers remain in Zimbabwe"
Glenys Kinnock, MEP
"We must keep pushing, keep trying"
Zimbabwe government spokesman John Nkomo
"He declared that he was a tourist"
See also:

15 Feb 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe denies revoking visa
15 Feb 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe reporter feared for life
14 Feb 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe approves EU observers
14 Feb 02 | Africa
War vets wreak havoc in Bulawayo
13 Feb 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe poll monitors row grows
06 Feb 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe's climate of fear
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