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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 02:06 GMT
Zimbabwe attacks EU sanctions
Robert Mugabe supporters in Harare
An angry mob attacked the opposition offices in Harare
Zimbabwe has described as "disgraceful" the European Union's decision to impose personal sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his ruling elite.

Mr Mugabe views European attempts to observe Zimbabwe's March presidential elections as neo-colonialist interference, and has warned the EU to stop meddling.

Sanctions
Ban on travel to the EU
Freeze on financial assets held in EU
Arms embargo
"The EU should not continue to supervise us because we do not go to their countries and supervise them," an angry Mr Mugabe said.

The sanctions, which include a travel ban on Mr Mugabe and 19 of his close associates and the freezing of their European assets, were imposed on Monday after Harare expelled the head of the EU observers' mission.

Stinging attack

Zimbabwe's Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, accused the EU of seeking to bring down Mr Mugabe.

Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe believes the EU wants to remove him from power
"It is very clear that what we are now dealing with is organised economic terrorism whose aim is clear and is to unseat a legitimately elected government which has decided to defend its national independence and national sovereignty," Mr Moyo said.

"There is so much hypocrisy in this whole talk about the government subverting democracy - it's really about protecting the interests of the white minority, which in Zimbabwe is threatened by the needs of the majority."

'Colonial bullying'

The decision to impose sanctions was taken by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels following the expulsion from Zimbabwe at the weekend of Pierre Schori, head of the EU observer team.

Pierre Schori
Mr Schori was sent back to Europe
EU ministers said in a statement that Mr Mugabe's government had "prevented the deployment of an EU observation mission".

"The EU remains seriously concerned at political violence, serious violations of human rights and restrictions on the media... which call into question the prospects for a free and fair election," the statement said.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the sanctions, which include a ban on travel to the EU, a freeze on financial assets held there and an arms embargo, were designed to hit the political elite, not the economy.

The BBC's Hilary Andersson says Mr Mugabe believes he is the victim of a colonial-style campaign by Western governments to end his term in power.

She says he is likely to use his new international isolation to boost his own message to the electorate and to portray Zimbabwe's elections as part of a struggle for real African independence.

Withdrawal

About 30 observers from the EU currently remain in Zimbabwe, but they will now be withdrawn.

Expressing regret at the pull-out, EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten said the EU had concluded that leaving even a small number of EU observers "would have played into Mr Mugabe's hands".

"Our argument is not with the people of Zimbabwe, but with Mugabe and his cronies," he said.

The sanctions have been welcomed by Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, whose headquarters in the capital, Harare, were attacked by hundreds of Mr Mugabe's supporters on Monday.

Riot police arrested dozens of protesters who had been throwing stones and smashing windows, witnesses said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"The sanctions are unlikely to change anything"
Zimbabwean journalist Basildon Peta
"The decision to impose sanctions was long overdue"
Commonwealth Secretariat spokesman Joel Kibazo
"We would like to find out what is happening in Zimbabwe"
See also:

14 Feb 02 | Africa
War vets wreak havoc in Bulawayo
06 Feb 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe's climate of fear
05 Feb 02 | Africa
Mugabe's election masterplan
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