Brown to boycott EU Africa summit over Mugabe

Gordon Brown today reaffirmed he would boycott the forthcoming EU Africa summit rather than share a table with Robert Mugabe.

The prime minister told reporters at Downing Street he stood by his position not to “sit down” with Mr Mugabe at next month’s summit in Portugal.

Local reports today confirmed the Zimbabwean leader is planning to attend the EU Africa summit.

Mr Brown insisted the “conditions of oppression and repression” in Zimbabwe made it impossible for him to meet with the African leader.

He said: “Given the circumstances of the last ten years and our attempts to give assistance in Zimbabwe, which have been thwarted and resisted, it is not possible for us to attend this summit and sit down with president Mugabe.”

The position puts the prime minister at odds with other UK leaders who have said they will sit down with Mr Mugabe, despite sharing many of Mr Brown’s criticisms.

Speaking during his monthly press conference, Mr Brown said Mr Mugabe must take responsibility for his country’s economic collapse.

He recalled Zimbabwe was once one of Africa’s “wealthiest nations” but now 80 per cent of its population live in poverty and female life expectancy has dropped to 34 years old.

Mr Brown said the UK would stand by its offer to contribute towards “major reconstruction” but only if Mugabe’s regime agreed to certain conditions including “free and fair” elections.