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Zimbabwe peeved over Mugabe's wife

31 March 2014, 07:00

Harare - Zimbabwe on Friday called on African leaders to boycott a European Union-Africa summit in Brussels this week because President Robert Mugabe's wife has not been granted a visa to travel with him.

"The EU has no right to interfere in any way on who should attend the summit from Africa," Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told dpa.

"Indications so far are that very few African leaders will attend, given the treatment we are getting from the EU."

EU sources in Addis Ababa dismissed the statement as completely unfounded. "I am 100% sure that African leaders will attend," the source told dpa by telephone. "About 60 European or African heads of state have confirmed their attendance, and we expect 80 to come," he said.

"It will be a huge summit - maybe the most important of its kind."

An African Union spokesperson was not available for comment.

Mugabe and his wife Grace are under an EU travel ban imposed in 2002, after a government crackdown on the opposition and the eviction of white farmers from agricultural land.

The EU had waived the visa ban on Mugabe, who is the vice chair of the AU, saying it was not bound by the ban when hosting large international conferences.

But the EU persisted in its refusal to grant a visa to Mugabe's wife, EU ambassador to Harare Aldo Dell'Ariccia told dpa. "The EU-Africa summit is a working event with no spouses' programme," Dell'Ariccia said.

For Grace Mugabe to travel to Brussels, the host country Belgium would have needed the agreement of all EU member states, which was not achieved, the ambassador added.

Zimbabwe says Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, Egypt, Morocco and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic have not been invited to the summit.

EU sources in Addis Ababa and Brussels denied the claim concerning Egypt and Morocco.

However, the invitation to Sudan went to its government and not to al-Bashir - who is wanted by the International Criminal Court - the sources said.

The only country not invited is the Saharawi Republic, which is not recognised by the EU.

Dell'Ariccia stressed that the summit was "of the highest importance" for the EU.

"It is the highest level of political dialogue between the EU and the African continent," he said.



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