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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 21:27 GMT
Analysis: EU sanctions lack teeth
Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on the campaign trail
Morgan Tsvangirai believes sanctions came too late

The European Union decision to impose so called "smart" sanctions on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and 19 of his senior associates will make little difference to the conduct of the presidential elections there on 9 and 10 March.

The sanctions mean that Mr Mugabe and the others will not be able to travel to the EU, will have their assets in the EU - if any are left - frozen and the EU will not sell arms to Zimbabwe.

The EU's foreign ministers imposed them after the head of the European observer mission, Swedish diplomat Pierre Schori, was ejected from Zimbabwe.

The upshot is rather messy - limited sanctions which will have little effect, and no observers.

These personal sanctions will not affect aid which is directed towards helping ordinary people.

The observers still left in Zimbabwe will be withdrawn on the grounds that they will be so restricted as to be ineffective.

Europeans unanimous

The decision was taken after a debate among the foreign ministers as to whether it might not be better to leave the sanctions on one side and the observers in place until after the elections themselves. The Portuguese and Greeks took this line.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said Europe should not help Mr Mugabe win the election.

Mr Mugabe is unlikely to be much moved by not being able to travel to Europe

The French were inclined towards holding off on sanctions, but French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine fell in behind British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who called for a hard line.

In the end there was unanimity. Everyone, despite their reservations, accepted that the expulsion of Mr Schori and inhibitions placed on the observers were just too much.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
Mugabe is accused of muzzling independent media
"Today is the end of the road", declared Mr Straw.

The European Union has therefore played its card. But it is not a particularly strong card, since Mr Mugabe is unlikely to be much moved by not being able to travel to Europe.

He is single-mindedly determined to win the election, as much as he was to win the guerrilla war against white Rhodesians.

No sign of support

And there is no international agreement on sanctions. South Africa is not joining in.

Its attitude will also largely determine that of Zimbabwe's neighbours in the 14-member South African Development Community (SADC).

The United States might add its weight but this is not certain and again, in any case, would not make much difference.

And there is some real opposition to withdrawing the observers. Amnesty International says it would have been better for them to stay.

So the upshot is rather messy - limited sanctions which will have little effect, and no observers.

The European Union has huffed and now it has puffed.

But it is unlikely to bring Robert Mugabe's house down.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"I doubt the sanctions will have an impact in the crucial period"
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa
"Europe want to own us"
General Sec of the Movement for Democratic Change
Welshman Ncube

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18 Feb 02 | Africa
15 Feb 02 | Africa
14 Feb 02 | Africa
13 Feb 02 | Africa
06 Feb 02 | Africa
28 Jan 02 | Country profiles
05 Feb 02 | Africa
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