"[The meeting] went well," Mugabe said.

"They were asking questions about the GPA [Global Political Agreement] and they thought it was not working, yet everything we were asked to do under the GPA we have done and timeously even.

"We established good rapport, no animosity, it was quite a friendly meeting."

Karel de Gucht, the EU's aid commissioner, said after the talks on Saturday: "We want this government of national unity to be a success.

"I think we should acknowledge that there is progress being made here but there are still several problems outstanding and we discussed those with the president in a very open atmosphere."

Sanctions

Mugabe said he was upset at EU travel restrictions and asset freezes against himself and his allies, which he often blames for his country's woes.

Carlsson discussed the role sanctions could play in future dialogue with Tsvangirai, right [AFP]
 
"I was always disappointed that sanctions have been imposed upon the government. Sanctions are serving no humanitarian purpose, they are causing lots of suffering among the people right at the bottom."

Despite a call by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) for the penalties to be dropped, the EU maintains that mismanagement and a poor human rights record - rather than sanctions - are behind the country's problems.

The EU did not discuss sanctions during the talks with Mugabe, though the issue did come up in talks with Tsvangirai, held later in the day in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo.

Tsvangirai said the sanctions would form part of a recently launched dialogue process with the EU, but said Zimbabwe still needed to commit to great political reforms.

"There are issues of reforms, such as constitutional reforms ... the issue of media, that are necessary," Tsvangirai said.

Normalisation

The EU is looking to normalise ties with Zimbabwe and is seeking proof that Mugabe is committed to making the necessary reforms in his country.

A year after Mugabe and Tsvangirai inked the unity accord, power struggles over key posts and claims of continued persecution of Tsvangirai's supporters have made Western states reluctant to provide direct aid.

The unity government, formed after disputed polls pushed Zimbabwe into a deep political and economic crisis, is struggling to rebuild the hyperinflation-ravaged economy and basic services that collapsed under Mugabe's three decades of rule.

The 85-year-old Mugabe told reporters after the meeting that his problem was with the British government.

"Those who died, died of illness, conditions having deteriorated, it is those who have caused those conditions to deteriorate who must bear the blame. I think the British first and foremost." he said.

"I am a person the British don't like."

The EU and the US imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle following a disputed presidential poll in 2002, which Western nations as well as independent local poll monitors described as flawed.