AFP - The time has come to increase pressure on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to step down so that his strife-torn country can move forward, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Monday.
"The moment has arrived to put on the pressure for Mugabe to step down and give the opportunity once again to the people of Zimbabwe to get their life together and begin to move the country forward," Solana told reporters as he arrived for talks with EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
"The important thing is the political pressure now," he said.
Solana's comments came the day after Zimbabwean state media blamed the country's cholera outbreak, which has claimed nearly 600 lives, on European sanctions imposed on Mugabe's regime.
The assembled European Union foreign ministers were set to tighten up those sanctions on Monday, amid worries over the deteriorating humanitarian situation and political stalemate in the country.
They were to add 10 names to the EU's sanctions list of 168 members of the Zimbabwe regime -- which already includes Mugabe and his wife Grace, who are banned from entering EU nations and whose European assets have been frozen.
The EU ministers were also set to stress their "deep concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, particularly as a result of the cholera epidemic and the continuing violence against supporters of the (opposition) Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)," according to a draft statement seen by AFP.
The statement also calls for "a fair and viable power sharing agreement without delay."
Zimbabwe has been in political limbo since elections in March when the opposition wrested control of parliament from Mugabe's party and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pushed the veteran leader into second place in a presidential poll.
Tsvangirai pulled out of a run-off election in June, ensuring victory for Mugabe, after dozens of his opposition supporters were killed in attacks which the ruling ZANU-PF party were accused of orchestrating.
A power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, signed in Harare on September 15, is yet to be implemented amid wrangling over the distribution of key ministries.
The 27 EU nations had warned in October that they would add names to their persona non grata list unless Mugabe respected the power-sharing deal.
The ministers' draft text also slammed the "unacceptable" decision by Zimbabwe to bar a group of senior international statesmen -- including former US president Jimmy Carter, ex-UN chief Kofi Annan and rights activist Graca Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela -- from entering the country last month.