Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will attend the European Union-Africa summit next Saturday and Sunday in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, the Lusa news agency reported yesterday.
"Yes, I am going," Mugabe said when questioned by the Portuguese news agency.
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its 1980 independence from Britain and is accused by the West of stifling democracy and leading his southern African nation to economic ruin, had previously said he meant to attend the Lisbon summit, though he, and some of his ministers, faces a European Union (EU) travel ban.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has vowed that neither he nor any senior cabinet member of his government will attend the summit if Mugabe attends.
No EU-Africa summit has been held since the first and only one in Cairo seven years ago, as several European countries rejected inviting Mugabe, accused of human rights violations and destroying his country's economy.
Summit host Portugal has been scrambling to ensure that Zimbabwe's presence will not eclipse the chance for a true partnership between the EU and the world's poorest continent.
"This is about a summit that has not been held for seven years, a summit on human rights, on climate change, on migration, on problems of the EU and the African Union (AU)," Prime Minister Jose Socrates of Portugal, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said last week.
"I would like the summit not to be about one country or one leader," Socrates said.
Portugal's foreign minister, Luis Amado, had earlier astonished European diplomats by judging it "preferable" if Mugabe did not attend, since he might divert participants from essential issues.
Amado's remarks have been greeted with irony in some parts of Africa, where southern African governments in particular have threatened to boycott the summit if Mugabe is barred from attending.
Mugabe's participation in the summit has sharply divided African and European nations. The former accuse their European counterparts of wanting to dictate to Africa, while the latter say Africa condones dictatorship. - Sapa-AFP