LONDON – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged Wednesday to push for new European Union sanctions against Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe — and promised to help the southern African country if democracy returns.
Brown told lawmakers that he hopes talks between the United Nations and African Union can end the country's political crisis, which deepened when Zimbabwe's opposition withdrew from Friday's presidential runoff amid widespread violence and intimidation.
He said Britain is ready to tighten measures against the government in Harare and will ban Zimbabwe's cricket team from touring Britain next year. Britain's Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said Britain will ban the team because of the close links it has with Mugabe.
After receiving a letter from Burnham, the England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed it will suspend all ties with Zimbabwe's cricket body.
"We are preparing intensified sanctions — financial and travel sanctions — against named members of the Mugabe regime," Brown said during his weekly question-and-answer session in the House of Commons.
Britain's Foreign Office and a European Union list confirm that 131 individuals connected to Mugabe's regime are currently the subject of EU travel and financial sanctions, under EU measures drafted in 2002.
Beyond that, Brown's Downing Street office said an unspecified number of other leaders of Zimbabwe's regime have had their assets frozen and their travel restricted by Britain. Britain will push the EU for further action against certain individuals, Brown told lawmakers.
"We do know the names of the individuals who are surrounding Mugabe at the moment, we know the names of the criminal cabal that is trying to keep him in power, and we will name those individuals and these will be part of the next stage of the sanctions," Brown said.
Brown called on other nations to support Britain's decision to ban Zimbabwe's cricket team from the U.K.
"We want to ensure that Zimbabwe does not tour England next year." Brown said. "And we will call on other countries to join us in banning Zimbabwe from the Twenty20 tournament," which is being held in Britain next year.
Zimbabwe was scheduled to play next June in cricket's Twenty20 World Cup in England. The team was also due to play England for two tests and three one-day matches.
In a letter sent Wednesday to cricket board, Burnham said he could not allow Zimbabwe's tour to go ahead.
"The close ties of the Zimbabwe cricket team to the Mugabe regime have also had a bearing on our decision," Burnham wrote in his letter. Mugabe is a longtime patron of Zimbabwe's cricket authorities.
Brown told British lawmakers he was heartened that some African leaders had denounced Mugabe and his government, and said Britain would be ready with a new aid package if Zimbabwe returns to democracy.
"What we want to see is an end to the violence and a peaceful transition in Zimbabwe, and that's why the efforts of the African Union and the United Nations are so important," Brown said. "We are ready to commit substantial resources to Zimbabwe once democracy returns."