The European Union is to further ease sanctions on Zimbabwe next week, but will keep a travel ban and asset freeze on President Mugabe and his wife.

Although this is the case, EU has held out an olive branch to Mugabe, inviting him to take part in an EU-Africa summit in Brussels in April and granting him an exemption from sanctions to visit Europe.

The moves reflect a cautious  easing of EU policy towards Zimbabwe 12 years after it fist imposed sanctions in protest at human rights abuses and violation of democracy under Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

EU states were divided in their response when Mugabe, 89, won a fifth term as president in an election last July that was endorsed as free by African observers but denounced as fraudulent by the opposition.

The overhaul of the EU’s policy, after a review, is designed to encourage positive change in Zimbabwe while retaining some leverage over Mugabe to pursue reforms.

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