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EU Observers Will ‘Strengthen’ Zimbabwe Referendum, U.K. Says

Zimbabwe should invite the European Union to observe the country’s March 16 constitutional referendum and add credibility to the result, said Deborah Bronnert, Britain’s ambassador to the southern African nation.

“If Zimbabwe wants to run a free and fair election, I think it will be very powerful to have outsiders saying this is a free and fair election,” Bronnert told reporters today in the capital, Harare.

Zimbabweans will decide on a new constitution this month. A vote in favor will be the first step to ending almost five years of power-sharing between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change. Both parties want the constitution approved by voters.

U.S. and European observers won’t be allowed to monitor ballots in the country because those countries imposed sanctions, the state-controlled Chronicle reported, citing Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.

The African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and “friendly” nations will be permitted to observe the referendum, he was quoted as saying.

President Robert Mugabe is expected to announce a date for presidential elections after the referendum. Under Zimbabwean law, those elections must be held before Oct. 31, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said in January.

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