Page last updated at 10:43 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

EU tightens sanctions on Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe in Harare - 19/1/2009
The sanctions target people and firms close to Robert Mugabe

The European Union has tightened its sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, EU officials have said.

More than 60 individuals and firms with links to Mr Mugabe have been added to a list of those banned from travelling to the EU or doing business there.

Those on the sanctions list are suspected of having links to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

The move comes as Southern African leaders meet to try to resolve the political deadlock in Zimbabwe.

With the additions to the sanctions list, there are now 203 individuals and 40 companies banned from travelling to the EU's 27 member states and doing business there.

Among those targeted, for the first time, are shell companies registered in Europe which EU officials say are being used to channel funds out of Zimbabwe.

The EU has also called for an investigation into allegations that Zimbabwe's trade in illicit diamonds is helping keep Mr Mugabe in power.

If the allegations are proven, Zimbabwe could be suspended from the Kimberley Process, an international certification scheme set up to ensure diamond sales do not fund violent conflicts.

Economic collapse

The tightened sanctions are meant to increase pressure on Mr Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party to implement a power-sharing accord reached in September last year with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

They have been unable to agree on who should control key government posts.

Zimbabwe is in a state of economic and social collapse with nearly 3,000 deaths from a cholera epidemic.

The EU introduced sanctions against Mr Mugabe and some of his top officials in 2003 and has expanded the list since then.

The US has also levied similar sanctions against individuals and companies with links to Mr Mugabe.

So far, international sanctions have done little to halt the crisis engulfing Zimbabwe, says the BBC's European affairs correspondent Oana Lungescu, in Brussels.

Mr Mugabe has often blamed the sanctions for his country's economic collapse.

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