[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Mugabe shrugs off Brown boycott
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe
Gordon Brown says it is "him or me" at the EU-AU summit
President Robert Mugabe will defy Prime Minister Gordon Brown's boycott threat if invited to attend a Europe-Africa summit, says Zimbabwe's UN Ambassador.

Boniface Chidyausiku said Mr Brown had "no right to dictate" who should be at the meeting in Portugal in December.

It follows Mr Brown's threat that he will not attend the summit of African and EU leaders if Mr Mugabe is there.

He claims Mr Mugabe's presence will "divert attention" from big issues such as poverty, climate change and health.

But Mr Chidyausiku accused Mr Brown of seeking to "multilateralise" an argument between the UK and Zimbabwe.

The leader of one of Zimbabwe's neighbours, Zambia, who is also chairman of the regional Southern Africa body, SADC, has alsow warned that if Mr Mugabe is not allowed to attend the summit, then neither will he.

"I will not go to Portugal if Mugabe is not allowed. I don't know how many of us [African leaders] will be prepared to go to Portugal without Mugabe," said President Levy Mwanawasa.

Dr Gertrude Mongella, the Tanzanian president of the Pan-African Parliament, said Mr Brown's threat would not help Zimbabwe.

"We do know there are some problems, but if somebody wants to arm-twist Zimbabwe, that's not the best way to solve the problems," she said.

"I think this is again another way of manipulating Africa. Zimbabwe is a nation which got independence," she added.

'Part of Africa'

In an interview with BBC2's Newsnight, Mr Chidyausiku said Mr Mugabe had a "sovereign right" to attend.

"Gordon Brown has no right to dictate who should come to Lisbon," he said.

"Definitely we are going if we are invited because we are part of Africa."

No invitation has yet been sent to Mr Mugabe, according to senior sources in the Portuguese government.

The sanctions are an indication of the abhorrence of people in Europe about what is happening in Zimbabwe
Gordon Brown

Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the BBC World Service that Mr Brown's view was the right one.

"An EU-Africa summit can only become a media circus if it's dominated by Robert Mugabe sitting next to Gordon Brown," he said.

"We don't think that it's right to be discussing good governance, human rights, economic development as if there isn't the tragedy unfolding in Zimbabwe that is unfolding at the moment, unfolding as a direct result of the policies being pursued by Mr Mugabe."

Further sanctions

EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel said he sympathised with Mr Brown, but said it was of the "utmost importance" to hold the summit, which would be the first for seven years.

In order to allow Mr Mugabe to attend the conference, EU member states would have to convene before the summit and agree to lift the travel ban currently imposed on him.

But the prime minister has indicated that Britain will call on the European Union "in the next few days" to extend travel and financial sanctions against Zimbabwe's ruling party.

"We are prepared to consider further sanctions," he told ITN. "The sanctions are an indication of the abhorrence of people in Europe about what's happening in Zimbabwe."

The BBC's Europe editor, Mark Mardell, said he understood diplomats were being "very active in trying to find a compromise".

This could involve inviting another Zimbabwean representative, such as a junior member of the government or a civil servant, so that Mr Brown could attend, our correspondent said.

'Serious opportunity'

Portugal, which holds the rotating EU presidency, is keen to invite every African leader to be at the summit on 8 and 9 December, but may let the African Union decide who should attend.

A man holds a Zimbabwean $200,000 note
Denominations of bank notes have risen owing to levels of inflation

Mr Brown described the summit as a "serious opportunity" to forge stronger partnerships between Africa and the EU.

He said: "I applaud the prime minister of Portugal for what he is trying to do to build stronger relations between Europe and Africa. This is a summit that is necessary for Africa's sake.

"But of course it would be totally inappropriate for me to be there if President Mugabe [is]."

He went on: "Four million people have left the country. Four million people on food aid because of famine by Christmas, 80% unemployment, life expectancy at 37."

He said humanitarian aid was being stepped up and promised to press the UN Security Council for an envoy to "look and report on the situation".

Mr Brown has been urged to take action against Mugabe

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific