Mugabe boycotts EU summit over wife

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IOL  SI_Mugabe . Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace at the wedding of their daughter Bona to Simbarashe Chikore, below, in Harare on Saturday.

Harare - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will boycott next week's mammoth EU-Africa summit after his wife was denied a visa to enter Europe, a foreign ministry official said Friday.

"We are no longer going to the EU-Africa. We disagreed on the composition of our delegation," said a source at the ministry, who asked not to be named.

Harare had earlier Friday urged the African Union to shun the summit for failing to invite all the Africa bloc's leaders, and lift a ban on Zimbabwe's first lady.

But diplomats in Brussels were unfazed by the call for a boycott.

"We see no risk" of a boycott of the April 2-3 summit gathering 90 nations from both continents, including 65 heads of state and government, said a senior official speaking on condition of anonymity.

In Harare, foreign ministry spokesman Joey Bimha had earlier said the European Union had failed to invite Sudan and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which does not have international recognition, while Egypt, which has been suspended from the AU, had been given the nod.

Another concern is "the issue of our first lady who was denied a visa," Bimha told AFP, referring to Mugabe's wife, Grace.

Mugabe and his wife remain targeted by an EU travel ban but the restriction can be suspended temporarily to allow the head of state to attend international forums.

"We have been discussing this for some time," the EU official said.

"We have reached agreement and Zimbabwe has been invited but no spouses have been invited. So there is a derogation from the travel ban for the president but not for spouses."

The EU ambassador to Harare, Aldo Dell'Ariccia said when Zimbabwe asked for a visa for Mugabe's wife "they were told she should apply through the normal channels".

"Since she is still under restrictive measures, there was no unanimous decision that she should get a visa," said Dell'Ariccia. "The EU is just following it's legal framework and there can't be any movement from that position."

Meantime the EU official in Brussels also said that the bloc had invited the government of Sudan but that the African Union was free to extend an invitation to President Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir is wanted by the ICC for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed in Darfur.

In Harare, Bimha noted that the African bloc's committee had decided that AU member states "should not attend the summit if the EU insists on interfering with the composition of Africa's delegation".

"They have taken their decision to the chair for a final decision on whether or not the AU should attend the summit," he said.

"We will go by that decision. We hope the AU will stick to its decision in January that they will attend on condition that all leaders of the AU are invited."

The EU sanctions against Zimbabwe dating back to 2002 were eased in February but Mugabe and his wife remain on the European list.

 

Sapa-AFP



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