EU widens sanctions on Zimbabwe, includes companies
(Adds quotes, EU statement, names on sanctions list)
By Ingrid Melander
BRUSSELS, July 22 (Reuters) - The European Union tried to increase pressure on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday by widening sanctions to target 37 more individuals and four companies linked to his government.
Existing EU sanctions include an arms embargo, visa bans and asset freezes on senior officials including Mugabe. Tuesday's additions mean the list now comprises 168 individuals, and for the first time targets companies.
Foreign ministers took the action to protest against the widely condemned presidential elections. Mugabe was re-elected unopposed on June 27 in a run-off poll boycotted by opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai because of violence against his supporters. "It struck us as impossible to accept that the second round of elections -- with physical pressure, with torture of children, with barbarous intimidation -- that this violation of the most basic democratic rules should be accepted," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said after the meeting.
"That's why we decided to adopt sanctions, because sanctions carry weight," he told a news conference.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the sanctions were intended to influence the course of talks on a possible power-sharing deal for Zimbabwe.
Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change opened negotiations in Pretoria earlier in the day on a power-sharing accord, in an effort to resolve the country's deep political crisis.
The companies whose European assets will be frozen include ZANU-PF's financial holding company Zidco Holdings and the government-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries, already on a U.S. sanctions list.
Visa bans and asset freezes have been imposed on central bank Governor Gideon Gono, army officers accused by the EU of involvement in election violence, policemen and journalists.
An EU statement said the bloc might impose further sanctions in September if the situation did not improve.
"The sanctions ... are designed very much to reinforce the drive for the transitional government that reflects the democratic will of the Zimbabwe people as expressed in the election in March," Miliband said, referring to the first round of the presidential poll won by Tsvangirai.
EU sanctions were initially triggered by the seizure of many white-owned farms under Mugabe's land redistribution plan, and Mugabe's disputed re-election in 2002.
U.S. President George W. Bush said last week the United States was looking at imposing more sanctions on Zimbabwe's government after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. sanctions resolution earlier in the month. (Additional reporting by Paul Taylor; Editing by Mark John and Tim Pearce)
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