The sanctions first were imposed in 2002 to protest human-rights violations in Zimbabwe and Mugabe's authoritarian rule.

 

The punitive measures also include a ban on arms sales and freezes Zimbabwean assets in European banks.

 

A separate decision also suspends most development aid projects under a special EU-Africa aid and trade deal.

 

EU divided

 

EU nations, however, are divided over how tough to get with Mugabe, notably on whether the EU should end all contacts with Zimbabwe, which is in dire need of economic aid.

 

France has promoted dialogue with Mugabe. Zimbabwe, however, declined a French invitation to attend an African leaders' summit in France last week because it was asked to send an official other than Mugabe to the gathering.

 

An EU-Africa summit planned for Lisbon in 2003 was scrapped when some African nations objected to the EU refusal to let Mugabe attend.

 

However, Portugal plans to stage an EU-Africa summit in November without Mugabe.

 

Opposition rallies

 

"Our language has become popular expression and we will be at the forefront in confronting the Mugabe regime"

Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change
Zimbabwe's main opposition vowed on Monday to organise more rallies against Mugabe's rule despite a brutal police crackdown over the weekend.

  

Scores were hurt and around 130 arrested on Sunday as riot police used teargas and water cannons to break up a planned rally in Harare.

 

The rally had been organised by Morgan Tsvangirai, the chief opposition leader, and approved by the high court.

  

Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the opposition would not be cowed.

 

"Our language has become popular expression and we will be at the forefront in confronting the Mugabe regime," Chamisa said.

  

Presidential campaign 

Tsvangirai left the rally in the densely populated township without addressing supporters after security forces began their crackdown.

  

He had planned to use the rally to launch his latest campaign for the presidency of the troubled southern African nation, resisting plans by Zanu-PF to extend Mugabe's rule by another two years.

  

The next presidential elections are due to take place in 2008 but Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain in 1980, is trying to delay them to 2010 in order to coincide with parliamentary polls.

  

The MDC has vowed to resist the proposed poll delay saying the country could not afford another two years with inflation at nearly 1,600 per cent and food shortages increasingly widespread.