Australian sanctions against some Zimbabweans lifted

AUSTRALIA has lifted sanctions against 55 Zimbabweans after it was revealed a constitutional referendum would be held in the troubled country on March 16.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the names on the list included some ZANU-PF politicians, members of the judiciary and media, provincial governors and leading business figures.

"These individuals are not considered to be hindering democratic reforms or undermining the ultimate goal of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. Nor are they thought to be involved in human rights abuses," Senator Carr said.

Remaining Australian sanctions on Zimbabwe include travel and financial restrictions against 98 individuals and four entities, an arms embargo and prohibition on defence links.

Zimbabwe's reform process had been "painfully slow", Senator Carr said, but leaders such as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were making genuine progress.

Senator Carr released a three-stage roadmap for the lifting of Australian sanctions on Zimbabwe in February.

Under the roadmap, Australia would progressively reduce sanctions when: a date for the constitutional referendum was announced; a peaceful and credible constitutional referendum was held, and; free and fair elections were held and a democratically-elected government took office.

Senator Carr said despite recent progress, Australia remained concerned by the fragility of Zimbabwe's political situation and the risk of a return to violence.

Sanctions would be reimposed if progress towards free and fair elections became derailed.

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