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EU suspends most Zimbabwe sanctions, leaves Mugabe on list

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The EU has suspended an assets freeze and visa ban against most Zimbabwean firms and people after a "credible" March referendum, but President Robert Mugabe and a few others remain blacklisted.

The United States said it would wait and see before deciding whether or not to follow suit.

The European Union announced on Monday it was immediately suspending measures "against 81 individuals and eight entities", commending the people of Zimbabwe for "a peaceful, successful and credible vote" to approve a new constitution on March 16.

EU officials withheld immediate details on names but a European diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed to AFP that Mugabe was among 10 Zimbabweans still targeted by the decade-old European Union measures.

The sanctions were originally imposed in 2002 on the grounds of political violence, human rights abuses and the failure to hold free and fair elections.

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party immediately dismissed the partial lifting of sanctions as a "non-event".

"We are looking for the total and unequivocal lifting of sanctions which were not justified in the first place," party spokesman Rugare Gumbo told AFP.

Monday's removal of dozens of names from the blacklist was the largest since a policy U-turn last July, when on Britain's suggestion the 27-nation bloc pledged to lift sanctions should the country hold a "credible" vote on a new constitution.

In February, 21 Zimbabweans out of 112 on the EU blacklist, and one of 11 firms, were removed after Harare announced a firm intention to hold the vote.

In the referendum, almost 95 percent of Zimbabweans backed a new constitution that would trim Mugabe's powers and pave the way for new elections, expected later this year.

Mugabe and his long-time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai both backed the draft, which limits presidents to two five-year terms in office, boosts parliament's powers but abolishes the post of prime minister.

Drafting a new constitution was a key condition of reforms agreed in 2008 when Mugabe was forced into a power-sharing deal with Tsvangirai after a violence-marred presidential election.

The EU said it welcomed calls for national reconciliation and peaceful political activity by Zimbabwe's leaders, including the president and premier, but remained concerned by reports of political intimidation and harassment.

"The EU urges all leaders to ensure that their commitment to peace and transparency are respected by all groups and services of the security authorities," it said in Monday's statement.

"A number of key decision makers will remain subject to restrictive measures until peaceful, transparent and credible elections have been achieved."

The United States also congratulated Zimbabwe for the conduct of its referendum.

But State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Washington was still waiting to see if it can "serve as a precedent for upcoming presidential elections".

"So we're going to continue to review our sanctions, but we want to get the democratic process back on track in Zimbabwe."

The EU's suspension of sanctions -- aimed at promoting reform in the southern African nation -- comes after it lifted sanctions on Myanmar.

The European diplomat told AFP that the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, remained on the blacklist. NGOs and diplomats claim the state-owned ZMDC, a major diamond and gold mining company which operates five diamond mines in the Marange fields, is channelling money to ZANU-PF.

The EU urged "effective observation" of the upcoming general election and welcomed a commitment by regional grouping SADC to send "a robust observation mission".

bur-jj/mtp

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130325/eu-suspends-most-zimbabwe-sanctions-leaves-mugabe-list-0