Australia stays out of smart sanction protest

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The Independent Online

A day after Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth, New Zealand looked set to impose "smart sanctions" but Australia backed away from taking more punitive measures against the African nation.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Phil Goff, yesterday welcomed the Commonwealth's decision to punish Zimbabwe for violence that marred the presidential elections won by Robert Mugabe earlier this month. Zimbabwe is now barred from the group's meetings for one year.

Mr Goff said New Zealand did not accept the Mugabe government's legitimacy and would likely impose tightly targeted sanctions banning members of the Zimbabwe leadership from being able to travel, visit, invest or receive health or education in New Zealand.

"What is needed now is concerted international pressure to see democracy and the rule of law reinstated in Zimbabwe," he said.

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard said his government would not impose sanctions, although his country was one of a group of Western nations that pushed hard for Zimbabwe's suspension.

"As far as economic and other sanctions are concerned, I would not expect Australia to be imposing those," he said in a radio interview.

Mr Howard chaired the three-nation Commonwealth panel in London, along with South African President, Thabo Mbeki, and Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, that agreed on the suspension.

The Labour opposition in Australia urged Mr Howard's government to impose "smart sanctions" as well.

"Targeted sanctions hurt where it counts. And they don't hurt the broad population who are already in dire straits," said the party's foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd.