11 Mar 2013

Australia starts to ease Zimbabwe sanctions

12:02 pm on 11 March 2013

Australia will begin easing long-standing sanctions against Zimbabwe after the country announced it would hold a constitutional referendum this Saturday.

Sanctions against 55 individuals including ZANU-PF politicians, members of the judiciary and media, provincial governors and leading business figures would be lifted, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said on Monday.

Senator Carr said the 55 people were not hindering democratic reforms, undermining the goal of having free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, or involved in human rights abuses, AAP reports.

Mr Carr said Zimbabwe's reform process had been "painfully slow" but leaders such as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had made genuine progress.

The announcement on Monday follows Senator Carr's release in February of a three-stage plan to peel back the sanctions, which include travel and financial restrictions against 153 individuals and four entities, and an arms embargo.

At the time, he said the Zimbabwean government must first set a date for a constitutional referendum, hold that referendum and then stage free and fair elections.

Zimbabwe has since announced it will hold a constitutional referendum on 16 March.