European Union Lifts Zimbabwe Sanctions After Referendum

The European Union lifted most of the sanctions it imposed on allies of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe more than a decade ago after the country held a peaceful referendum on a new constitution.

The EU suspended sanctions against 81 people and eight “entities” in Zimbabwe, it said on its website today, without naming the people or companies affected. Allies of Mugabe and the president himself have been subject to travel bans and the freezing of assets held in European countries.

“Recognizing the importance of the referendum and the adoption of a new constitution,” the sanctions were lifted with immediate effect, the EU said.

The March 16 referendum on the new constitution, which was approved in the vote, is a step toward holding elections later this year. A political impasse led to a decade-long recession that ended in 2009, when neighboring countries forced Mugabe to form a coalition government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.

The EU first imposed sanctions in 2002 after Mugabe, 89, defeated Tsvangirai in elections in 2000 that EU observers said were marred by violence and electoral irregularities. Elections in 2003, 2005 and and 2008 were also disputed.

Neighboring countries including South Africa have said the sanctions were hindering a resolution of the political dispute.

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