The Zimbabwean government on Friday welcomed Portugal's decision not to ban President Robert Mugabe from an EU-Africa summit in Lisbon in December despite European Union sanctions against him.
"We have got no problems with Portugal. It had no reason to deny President Robert Mugabe entry (into Portugal)," said Zimbabwe's Deputy Information Minister, Bright Matonga in reaction to Lisbon's decision.
"The message is very clear, they cannot isolate Africa as they used to do, divide and rule. That is why they cannot stop President Mugabe from going to Portugal," Matonga said.
"Africa is now united, what affects one member state has an impact on the whole continent," he said.
Earlier on Friday, Portugal's Deputy Foreign Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho, speaking from the Lusaka summit of southern African leaders, told the LUSA news agency that Lisbon "has no intention of discriminating" against Zimbabwe.
"It is not up to Portugal, current head of the EU, to invite some people rather than others," he said.
The 83-year-old Mugabe is officially barred from travelling to the 27 nations in the EU, and Britain in particular is keen on maintaining the ban.
The issue has hampered efforts to organise a second summit between the European Union and African states. The first was held in Cairo in 2000.
This rather simplistic refrain of "African unity" seems to be a common one nowadays among African leaders. They are seeing Robert Mugabe as one of their own, likely in contrast to the dreaded Europeans who were, of course, colonizers not so long ago. Mugabe seems to be playing this card very well as a recent meeting of African leaders yielded virtually no criticism of him or the goings-on in Zimbabwe:
And don't forget about Mugabe's Chinese friends. He may be appalling, but Mugabe hasn't exactly stayed in power for so long by not being adept at playing the game of international politics. A modicum of support from some combined with widespread apathy by others add up to one big crisis in Zimbabwe.
Southern African leaders are putting no public pressure on
's President Robert Mugabe to solve his country's dire political and economic crises. Zimbabwe
After a two-day conference in
Zambia's capital, Lusaka, delegates said only that they welcomed "progress" in talks between 's rival politicians. Zimbabwe
called on the region's leaders to "press vigorously" for an end to the country's "man-made crisis". US
Inflation stands at about 4,500% in
and food shortages are common. Zimbabwe
Increasing numbers of Zimbabweans are fleeing to neighbouring countries, leading some analysts to suggest that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit would put pressure on Mr Mugabe.
But the communique issued at the end of the conference made no mention of the country's economic problems.
Instead, the declaration welcomed efforts by
's President Thabo Mbeki to mediate between Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party, and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). South Africa
It called on both sides to "expedite the process of negotiations and conclude the work as soon as possible" so that
's elections, planned for March next year, could be "held in an atmosphere of peace". Zimbabwe
But MDC officials, who were lobbying in
, said Mr Mbeki was moving too slowly. Lusaka
After the conference
Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa, who has previously compared to a "sinking Titanic", played down the crisis facing the country. Zimbabwe
"We also feel that the problems in
have been exaggerated. We feel they will solve their economic problems," he said. Zimbabwe
He added that
's current voting laws were "valid to enable free and fair elections". Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe's justice minister had told the summit that no political reforms were needed in . Zimbabwe
"Political reform is not necessary in my country because we are a democracy like any other democracy in the world," Patrick Chinamasa said, Reuters news agency reports.
USstate department said Mr Mugabe's government had not shown any commitment to a democratic, prosperous . Zimbabwe
"Its obstructive actions, such as lack of participation in scheduled talks and statements arguing against the need for mediation, have undermined this important initiative," spokesman Sean McCormack said.
"Moreover, we deplore the Mugabe regime's continued acts of oppression against all segments of society."