Mugabe's Vatican trip sidesteps EU ban

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The Independent Online

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has arrived in Rome to attend the Pope's funeral, side-stepping a European Union travel ban because it does not apply to the Vatican.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has arrived in Rome to attend the Pope's funeral, side-stepping a European Union travel ban because it does not apply to the Vatican.

The EU imposed sanctions on Harare in 2002 after its observers were barred from elections. It also banned arms sales and froze Zimbabwe's assets in European banks as well as some development aid.

Zimbabwe state media said Mr Mugabe planned to meet members of the Italian business community.

The trip was denounced by the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube. "That man will use any opportunity to fly to Europe to promote himself," Archbishop Ncube said.

He accused Mr Mugabe of exploiting the Vatican. Senior Church figures would be unable to communicate to him their concern at the human rights situation, the archbishop said. "The secretary of state might be rather too busy right now to talk to him, but when someone in the family has died, you appreciate all the sympathy you can get from all people, even murderers, crooks and thieves like Mugabe." His comments defy new laws in Zimbabwe that impose a five-year jail sentence for undermining the dignity or authority of the head of state.

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