'Zimbabwe sanctions to stay until October'

Brussels – The European Union is taking a wait-and-see attitude to Zimbabwe's new power-sharing deal, leaving its sanctions unchanged but ready to reconsider them next month, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday.\r\n

"The sanctions for the moment will not be changed today, the decision will be probably taken in October," said Solana as he arrived ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Zimbabwe’s political leaders signed a landmark political deal on Monday which will see the country’s political rivals working together for the first time.

The new government is the result of protracted talks which involved the ruling Zanu-PF, led by Robert Mugabe, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) under Morgan Tsvangirai and a splinter faction led by Arthur Mutambara.

"We have to analyse it (the deal) in more detail," said Solana. "We are still not sure what is going to be the outcome of the agreement."

He said the EU was sending "a double message".

"We welcome very much the agreement and we hope we see the agreement implemented.

"Another message will be to commit with the people of Zimbabwe to develop and help the country if the agreement is implemented."

The new government is expected to pave the way towards resolving Zimbabwe’s economic crisis which has gripped the country for nearly a decade.

EU ambassadors last week drew up proposals to extend the existing visa-ban and assets-freeze sanctions to 10 more individuals in Zimbabwe.

However that decision came shortly before the announcement of the deal in Harare last Thursday.

Mugabe and his wife Grace plus other members of his regime are already on the list of individuals subject to a visa ban and whose assets have been frozen, as well as four companies.

EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel hailed the political agreement in Zimbabwe but said it remained to be seen how it was implemented.

He was cautious on the question of resuming economic aid to Harare saying the matter "has to be discussed".

However humanitarian aid did not pose a problem, Michel added, as Tsvangirai, who will become prime minister, "has told me that he is happy with the deal," and will control the interior ministry.

However Michel added that "we must see if the optimism is justified."

"To me it seems important that we press to create conditions for stability in Zimbabwe, above all economic prosperity. The people there have suffered long human misery and violence long enough," he said as he entered the Brussels talks.

Mugabe was re-elected in a run-off poll in June after opposition leader Tsvangirai pulled out, citing a campaign of intimidation and violence against his supporters that had killed dozens and injured thousands.

Tsvangirai’s supporters claimed their man had won the first round presidency vote outright. – Sapa-AFP