Fears it will become 'a Mugabe circus'

PORTUGAL - Britain has warned fellow EU nations that Prime Minister Gordon Brown will not attend a planned Europe-Africa summit if Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe does .

PORTUGAL - Britain has warned fellow EU nations that Prime Minister Gordon Brown will not attend a planned Europe-Africa summit if Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe does .

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband made London's position clear on Friday during an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in the northern Portuguese town of Viana do Castelo.

"He told them the prime minister would not be there if Mugabe goes," a source close to the closed-door talks said.

Miliband said on Saturday: "I don't think anyone wants to be part of a media circus in December when the summit will be held in Lisbon.

"There is serious work to be done and that is what we are focussing on.

"I think we all want a successful summit, but we are also very concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe," Miliband added, pointing out that the Zimbabwean currency had been devalued by 1200% on Thursday.

A senior British official said "it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the British prime minister and other EU leaders will attend a summit at which Mugabe is present".

While Africa as a whole and Zimbabwe in particular have serious issues to discuss, such as poverty, climate change and security, "none of them will be properly discussed if Mugabe rolls up and we have a Mugabe circus", the British official said.

He added there were precedents for such cases.

He cited Myanmar's involvement in the Association of South East Asian Nations despite a bar on Prime Minister Than Shwe attending.

An EU official said there could be some room for manoeuvre on the problem. "You know how it goes, you send a generic invitation to everyone and hope there will be some kind of transport problem. The Africans know very well that it is in their interests that this summit takes place."

Portugal, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, has said it has no intention of discriminating against Mugabe.

"It is not up to Portugal, current head of the EU, to invite some people and not others," Portugal's Deputy Foreign Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho said at a SADC summit in Lusaka last month.

Mugabe, 83, is officially barred from travelling to the 27 nations in the EU.

The issue has long hampered efforts to organise a second summit between EU and African states. The first was held in Cairo in 2000. - Sapa-AFP

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