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US and Europe allow 'banned' Zimbabwe officials to visit

Sanctions, human rights violations are waived, for now, so that Zimbabwe's power-sharing government can make some progress.

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Zimbabwe's prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has some unusual participants in his ongoing tour of Western donor nations. They are members of President Robert Mugabe's inner circle, people who have been restricted from traveling to Europe because of their connection to a regime with a record of severe human rights violations.

The fact that two Mugabe cronies – Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengengi – have been granted visas to travel to Europe is a significant departure from the European Union's past travel restrictions for senior Mugabe officials. This waiver could be the beginning of a reengagement with the Mugabe government, and an attempt to give the fragile coalition government of Mugabe and Tsvangirai's parties a chance to succeed.

"I think the EU is trying to be pragmatic," says Ozias Tungwarara, a Zimbabwe analyst at the Open Society Institute in Johannesburg. "They want to see democratic transition in Zimbabwe, and they are engaging with the unity government despite its shortcomings and despite the misgivings of pro-democracy forces in Zimbabwe. What we are beginning to see is that for the moment, the government of national unity is the group we have to work with."

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