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Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Saturday, 12 September 2009 16:54 UK

Mugabe hails landmark EU meeting

Mugabe: 'It went well'

President Robert Mugabe says Zimbabwe's first high-level talks with top EU officials in seven years went well.

After the talks, in Harare, he again called for international sanctions imposed since disputed presidential election in 2002 to be lifted.

The EU team also praised the meeting but indicated it was not appropriate yet for sanctions to end and complained about the slow pace of reforms.

The EU team later met PM Morgan Tsvangirai.

'Good rapport'

Before going into the talks with the EU team, Mr Mugabe said: "We welcome you with open arms. We hope our talks will be fruitful with a positive outcome."

AT THE SCENE
Andew Harding
Andrew Harding, BBC News, Harare

A smiling President Mugabe welcomed the European Union delegation with "open arms", he said, and "with great expectations". But there has been no obvious breakthrough. The EU team said they had complained to the president about the slow pace of political reform and about human rights violations and the rule of law.

After the meeting Mr Mugabe told journalists at State House that he had honoured the terms of Zimbabwe's power sharing deal and it was time sanctions were lifted.

I asked him if he had any plans to step down. He laughed and said he was "still young" he said targeted foreign sanctions against him and his allies were entirely responsible for the country's economic collapse and he insisted he bore no responsibility for any of Zimbabwe's problems.

When he reappeared after they ended, he told the BBC the talks had gone well.

He said: "We established a good rapport, it was a friendly meeting. Obviously they thought the Global Political Agreement was not working well."

The Global Political Agreement is the power-sharing deal that was sealed a year ago, most importantly with Mr Tsvangirai.

Mr Mugabe said that "everything we were asked to do under GPA we have done".

The EU team, led by Development Commissioner Karel De Gucht, expressed satisfaction with the talks, saying there had been "progress" in a "very open atmosphere".

But the BBC's Andrew Harding, in Harare, says the EU team also pointed out the problems it had with the current situation.

ZIMBABWE SANCTIONS
EU: 2002 to present
Assets freeze and travel ban on some Mugabe allies, arms-sale ban
US: 2003 to present
Trade ban against 250 Zimbabwean individuals and 17 companies
Other countries
Canada, Australia and UK among nations to have imposed their own targeted sanctions
Sources: EU, Reuters, US treasury, UK Foreign Office

The team, which has described the visit as an attempt to reopen political dialogue with Zimbabwe, said it was not appropriate to lift sanctions at the moment or for major aid to start.

Mr de Gucht said he hoped the president realised the need for "more understanding between the three principals - himself, the prime minister and the vice-prime minister".

Our correspondent says that one year on from the announcement of power-sharing, there remain serious doubts about human rights, the stalling of political reform and the good faith of President Mugabe and his supporters.

In a speech a day before meeting the delegation, Mr Mugabe had lashed out at the Western sanctions, accusing whites of wanting to "poke their nose into own our own affairs".

"We have stood firm and we have refused to let go. Zimbabwe - sanctions or no sanctions, Zimbabwe remains ours," he told a meeting of his Zanu-PF youth wing in Harare.

Conditional removal

Last week, African leaders had called for sanctions against the country to be lifted but Mr de Gucht said the measures had "no impact on the common population".

Morgan Tsvangirai at SADC summit 8.9.09
The EU team will also be meeting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai

Sweden's Development Minister Gunilla Carlsson and Mr de Gucht will be in the country until Sunday.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said last week that the EU was not considering lifting sanctions.

Long-time opposition leader Mr Tsvangirai wants a removal of sanctions to be conditional on how well the power-sharing deal signed a year ago has been implemented.

But last week the leaders of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) rejected that proposal.

South African President Jacob Zuma, who has criticised Mr Mugabe in the past and was expected to side with Mr Tsvangirai, said there should be no conditions placed on the removal of sanctions.



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