BRITAIN will scupper any plans by European Union countries to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe because senior government figures are “appalled” by thoughts of President Robert Mugabe shaking hands with the Queen, reports said Saturday.
Britain’s Independent newspaper quotes a Foreign Office official saying Mugabe, 88 this year, would never be allowed to set foot in London because he has “shown no sign of contrition for his misdemeanours”.
"That would be awful," the unnamed official is quoted as saying. "I don't think that he or his people will be visiting Britain any time soon – he has burnt his bridges as far as this country is concerned.
"The idea of him shaking hands with the Queen is appalling.”
Another British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, reported earlier this week that EU officials were prepared to lift sanctions targeting Zimbabwe’s state-owned companies and a travel ban on Mugabe and dozens of his top aides to encourage him to hold free and fair elections.
The sanctions – first imposed in February 2002 after the head of an EU observer mission to the presidential election was expelled – are facing growing opposition from both sides of Zimbabwe’s political divide and the region.
Most recently, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangiri, the MDC-T leader, and Navi Pillay, the UN human rights commissioner, have called for their lifting.
Pillay said the stigma of sanctions was inflicting damage on the Zimbabwean economy as the country was viewed adversely by international investors and lenders.
The Telegraph had reported that EU officials would use a carrot and stick approach by lifting the embargo conditionally later this month, the move becoming permanent if Mugabe can keep his promise to deliver a new constitution and hold free and fair elections.
But the Independent says Britain – which championed the sanctions – is hostile to the idea.
“Talks are planned over whether to approve the move – although there is widespread understanding that it cannot be agreed without Britain's approval,” the newspaper said.
“The hostility of the UK to any easing the international pressure on Mugabe suggests that is unlikely and the Foreign Office believes it would be hard to lend an olive branch to Zimbabwe until Mugabe either steps down or dies.”
John Robertson, a Zimbabwean economist, said Zanu PF had made much "political mileage" out of the sanctions.
"Sanctions were the West's best gift to Zanu PF,” he opined earlier this week.