The European Union was on a collision course with Zimbabwe last night, after the head of the EU's election observer mission was booted out of the country three weeks before presidential elections.
Pierre Schori, who is head of a team of 30 monitors, said his visa had been revoked and he had been told to leave before midnight. He is understood to have left on the British Airways flight to London last night. "Early today, the chief immigration officer informed me that the government had decided that I must leave today," Mr Schori said before he left Harare.
"The decision to revoke my visa and demand that I leave provides a particularly unfortunate twist in the ongoing dispute between the Zimbabwe government and the European Union."
Mr Schori refused to comment on the chances of the EU imposing sanctions after his expulsion, or on whether the remainder of the EU observer team would now leave, saying these issues would be decided by EU foreign ministers at a meeting tomorrow.
However, Foreign Office sources said that a decision on whether to impose sanctions would be based on whether the EU has an effective monitoring team in situ for the election on 9 March.
Mr Mugabe, who faces the stiffest electoral challenge of his 22 years in power, has rejected European attacks on his human-rights record and accusations of dirty tricks and intimidation in the campaign for the presidency.
Now Sweden's ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Schori led the EU delegation which monitored Zimbabwe's parliamentary election in 2000 and said at the time that those polls could not be described as free and fair. He also blamed the government and Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party for the bulk of that year's pre-election violence.
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