Mugabe Seeks to Improve Ties With the West

Johannesburg — AFTER years of hostility towards leading western states, many of which have imposed sanctions on his former regime, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe yesterday made a dramatic policy shift, calling for "fresh, friendly and co-operative relations".

The move was a watershed in Harare's poisoned relations with the international community after years of mutual hostilities, sanctions and threats of intervention through the United Nations to stop political repression and human rights abuses.

In an unusually conciliatory speech at the opening of parliament in Harare, Mugabe said he was ready to work with powerful western countries which had imposed sanctions on him and his cronies. He has regularly blamed the west for Zimbabwe's economic collapse, singling out former colonial power Britain in his tirades.

In Harare yesterday he also showed an unusually cordial attitude towards his partners in the inclusive government, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

"Our country remains in a positive stance to enter into fresh, friendly and co-operative relations with all those countries that have been hostile to us in the past," Mugabe told MPs in an address broadcast on state television.

"Following the launch of the Zimbabwe-European Union (EU) dialogue in Brussels early this year, our re-engagement with the European bloc is gathering momentum."

Mugabe addressed a wide range of issues, including parliament's new legislative agenda, political and constitutional reforms, regional integration and economic recovery.

He singled out a planned amendment of the mining laws to attract investment and promote indigenisation, the need for investment in power generation, and reforms of the central bank to re-instil confidence in the economy.

"The diamond industry has continued to court attention from investors," Mugabe said, adding that "two serious investors" had been selected, without naming them.

His government was committed to addressing issues raised during Zimbabwe- EU talks, namely an end to human rights abuses and respect for the rule of law.

The Zimbabwe-EU Dialogue, under article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement, was launched by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on June 18 in Brussels, though talks were under way months before that.

The Cotonou Agreement is a treaty between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states. It was signed in June 2000 in Cotonou, Benin, by 79 ACP countries and the then 15 EU states. It entered into force in 2003. Article 8 covers political dialogue concerning democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law.

EU negotiators said during their recent visit to Harare that they were not yet satisfied with progress in reforms and would not lift sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle. This infuriated Mugabe, who lambasted the visiting delegation, saying they were concerned with trivialities instead of serious issues.

A German delegation in Zimbabwe last week also said it was not satisfied with assurances that investments would be protected. Many other donor states are waiting for greater reforms.

Confidence in the dollar was also eroded as US fiscal debt spiralled and there were not many countries that wanted strong currencies, most had debt problems and others were keen to keep their export sectors afloat. (AllAfrica)


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