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Baroness Amos, foreign office minister
Baroness Amos, foreign office minister
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: BARONESS AMOS, FOREIGN OFFICE MINISTER MARCH 3RD, 2002

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Well just before we came on the air, I spoke to the foreign minister out there taking the place of Jack Straw, for sad reasons unable to go, Baroness Amos is out there, and I began by asking her for a reaction to those comments of Jonathan Moyo.

BARONESS AMOS: Well that would be very serious indeed. The one thing that there is absolutely no dispute about here is that all the Commonwealth want to see free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. That's why we have Commonwealth observers on the ground. And what we're all agreed is that we will use the report of the observers at the next stage in our thinking about what the Commonwealth should do. So if Zimbabwe are saying they're going to take absolutely no notice of what the Commonwealth observers say, that would be very serious indeed.

DAVID FROST: What, what would you say we should do - there's obviously three possibilities here: one is that, in fact, Robert Mugabe might lose the election and Mr Tsvangirai would then step into power peacefully - that's the dream scenario but in, in the other two possibilities, where Mr Tsvangirai is declared the winner but then jailed for treason, or Mr Mugabe is declared the winner but it's a fraud, what would we do in those two circumstances?

BARONESS AMOS: Well the discussion here at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting is one which is being undertaken by heads of state and heads of government as part of their retreat, so there are no decisions yet as to the action that might be taken. What our own prime minister, Tony Blair, has made absolutely clear is that that the kind of violence and intimidation we've seen, and we're all increasingly concerned about the kinds of reports we've seen in the newspapers over the last two days which talk about people being branded, we've seen large numbers of MDC supporters being taken into jail, for example, we've seen the difficulties that the MDC have had on the campaign trail, we have said that we feel absolutely clear that the Harare principles have already been violated. But of course the Commonwealth works by consensus. It's a diverse organisation so the discussions are now being had between Commonwealth heads of state and government. What we want to see is a strong statement, and some kind of mechanism which makes it clear what action the Commonwealth would take if we judged the elections not to be free and fair.

DAVID FROST: But we can see that they're not free and fair - now we're heard of a hundred thousand people being killed by Mugabe supporters over the last two years, one every 36 hours recently. We've got this report in The Observer about torture camps and so on - actually we could make that decision, the Commonwealth, if it wanted to, could make that decision now.

BARONESS AMOS: Well as you know, the prime minister made it absolutely clear before he came here to Australia that he would argue for the suspension of the Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth, because we did feel, and we continue to feel, that the Harare principles have been flouted. However, we accept, and we were realistic about the fact, that the Commonwealth is a diverse organisation, that it takes decisions by consensus, that we would have to work to discuss this with out Commonwealth partners, and that's what we're doing and we're in the process of doing that now.

DAVID FROST: So that if in fact we couldn't get a consensus, as you say this sort of unanimous consensus, but we felt the elections had been fair, rigged - unfair and rigged - in that situation it would be left to us, for instance, to suspend diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe. That's something we could do ourselves?

BARONESS AMOS: Well David, you know, there would then be a number of options that we would have to look at, you know that European Union have already imposed -

DAVID FROST: Right.

BARONESS AMOS: - targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe. We were extremely concerned by the way that the head of the EU mission was treated in Zimbabwe and effectively booted out of the country, we then withdrew the EU observers because we were concerned about their safety and their security, so this is something we would have to discuss within the context of the European Union, of course it's something we're discussing with our Commonwealth partners and we would also discuss it with other international partners and look at the action we would then want to take. But we would take a very, very firm view of this.

DAVID FROST: And in fact, in taking a firm view it means that you haven't ruled out the idea of cutting off relations with Zimbabwe.

BARONESS AMOS: We have ruled nothing in and nothing out. I mean, as I said, we already have targeted sanctions, we have the travel ban, we have the assets freeze, the United States have followed suit with a travel ban, we don't know what the outcome of the meeting will be but we would want to see a very strong statement, as I said, and some kind of mechanism that the Commonwealth would immediately put into action if the Commonwealth observers judged the elections not to be free and fair. And of course Britain would be looking at any other action that it might want to take independently.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much there to Baroness Amos.

INTERVIEW ENDS


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