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EU renews sanctions against Mugabe

 Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe

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Robert Mugabe

BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) -- The European Union on Monday renewed sanctions against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle and criticised the government for intimidating the opposition and muzzling the media.

"The council deplored the degradation of the human rights situation...and the failure on the part of the government of Zimbabwe to engage in meaningful dialogue with the opposition and civil society," EU foreign ministers said in a statement. Ambassadors representing the EU's 15 member states agreed in principle last week to extend for a year the asset freeze and travel ban imposed on leaders of Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party and other senior officials.

The sanctions were triggered by the controversial handing of white-owned commercial farms to mainly landless black peasants and Mugabe's disputed re-election in 2002.

The bans initially affected just 20 individuals, but British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the number of people targeted for the next year would be raised to 95 from 79.

"The additions...include the head of the electoral commission, who we judge responsible for the electoral frauds that have been taking place in Zimbabwe," Straw told reporters as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts.

"And the head of the media commission, who we judge is responsible for a lot of the intimidation of papers like the Daily News, closing them down, intimidating journalists."

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, accuses London of leading the international community in isolating Zimbabwe.

The EU foreign ministers voiced concern over "continued instances of political intimidation and violence" and over legislation which they said "seriously infringes on...citizens' right to freedom of association and assembly."

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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