Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown has refused to go to this weekend's European Union summit with African leaders because of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe's attendance.
It is the latest in a series of rows between the two countries, which analysts believe is likely to see Mugabe renew his charge of neo-colonialism against Britain and the West at the two-day meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, beginning on Saturday.
Britain led the Lancaster House talks in 1979 that saw the former Rhodesia move to independence and oversaw the democratic elections in 1980 that brought Mugabe to power, first as prime minister, then as president.
London supported Mugabe's new government in Harare, investing heavily in areas such as training for the newly integrated Zimbabwean National Army as well as in civil society projects.
Relations were generally good throughout the 1980s and '90s, until Tony Blair took office in 1997, when cracks began to appear.
Some analysts say by staying away from Lisbon, Brown was missing a chance to engage with Zimbabwe, at a time when the southern Africa negotiating bloc looked like it was making progress in political reconciliation in Zimbabwe. - Sapa-AFP