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Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 10:13 GMT
EU cancels Africa summit
UK PM Tony Blair (L) with French President Jacques Chirac
Zimbabwe has strained ties between London and Paris
The European Union has postponed indefinitely a summit with African leaders planned for Portugal in April as a result of EU sanctions over Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
African solidarity has proved a hindrance in isolating Mugabe
Most European countries had said they would boycott the summit if Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was invited.

African nations indicated they would stay away unless Zimbabwe was included.

However France and Portugal had said that the summit should go ahead, arguing that it would be an opportunity to press the Zimbabwean leader on human rights matters.

African solidarity

A British Government spokesman said that they had been keen to maintain the EU-Africa relationship and had worked "hard" to salvage the meeting.

Zimbabweans queuing for food aid
Human rights in Zimbabwe have been criticised

"Zimbabwe has not given the assurances that President Mugabe would stay away, and it was clear that a number of EU leaders would not be willing to meet him at the present time," he said.

"Therefore the decision to call off the meeting has had to be taken."

However an EU official said that they hoped to reorganise the meeting "as soon as possible".

EU diplomats also said that they had hoped that some African countries would support their efforts to politically isolate Mr Mugabe, however African solidarity with Zimbabwe had proved stronger than expected, Reuters news agency reported.

Sanctions extended

On Wednesday, EU nations agreed in principle that their sanctions against Zimbabwe should be renewed for another year.

The EU had imposed travel restrictions on the country's leaders and an arms sale ban on Zimbabwe and frozen Zimbabwean assets in Europe after failing to ensure Mr Mugabe improved human rights and reversed controversial agricultural food policies.

But this will not take effect before Mr Mugabe has attended a separate Franco-African summit in Paris next week.

The French threatened to veto the renewal of sanctions without this special exemption.


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10 Feb 03 | Africa
04 Feb 03 | Europe
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