EU rethinking wider Zimbabwe sanctions after deal

BRUSSELS – The European Union is reconsidering plans to extend sanctions against Robert Mugabe's ruling party in the light of a power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe, the French presidency of the bloc said on Friday.

"We need to study the agreement and assess the commitments of the parties," a presidency official told a news briefing after the announcement of the deal between Mugabe’s party and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC late on Thursday.

"We will be considering this over the course of the day and the weekend, and we will see how and to what extent there may be adjustments in the initial draft conclusions," the official said of previous plans by EU foreign ministers to announce an extension of sanctions on Monday.

The 27-nation EU imposed additional sanctions on the ruling elite earlier this year in response to election violence against opposition supporters.

"The fact that there was a power-sharing agreement doesn’t exonerate those who were guilty of committing violence," the EU presidency official said. "They are not going to escape responsibility. You need to bear that in mind as well."

The power-sharing pact follows two months of negotiations between Mugabe, 84, who has ruled with an iron hand since independence from Britain in 1980, and former union leader Tsvangirai, 56, his fiercest opponent for the past decade. The talks were brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

But it was not immediately clear what concessions Mugabe had made to Tsvangirai, an issue that will likely determine how much financial support Mugabe’s Western critics will give Zimbabwe to help it recover from economic meltdown.

David Coltart, an opposition Zimbabwean senator, said on Friday the two factions of Zimbabwe’s MDC opposition would have one more cabinet seat than Mugabe’s ZANU-PF under the deal. Mugabe would chair the cabinet and Tsvangirai a council of ministers, which would supervise the cabinet, Coltart said.

The EU had originally planned to decide on Monday to add more names to a list of Zimbabwean officials whose assets are frozen and who are banned to travel to Europe in protest lack of progress in ending the political deadlock.