EU May Halt Aid To Zimbabwe

Future European aid to Zimbabwe hinges on the restoration of law and order by the government after months of largely uncontrolled political violence, European Union officials said Tuesday.

More than 30 people were killed and thousands beaten and left homeless in the months leading up to last month's elections. Most of the victims were opposition supporters.

A coalition of Zimbabwean civic groups called on the government Tuesday to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the violence.

The EU election observer mission said in a statement released Tuesday that sporadic violence has continued in the aftermath of the elections, which left President Robert Mugabe's ruling party with a slender majority in the 120-member parliament.

The EU, which encompasses 15 nations, called on the government to re-establish swiftly the rule of law across the country and observe long-ignored judicial orders to remove illegal squatters from white-owned farms.

A small group of European monitors was to remain in Zimbabwe until at least July 14, spokesman Francesco Cobus Flores said.

Their observations will be added to the elections report released Tuesday in Harare and Strasbourg, France.

The 50-page report reiterated the mission's interim statement issued June 26 that the election process was legally flawed and affected by violence and intimidation.

As a result, the term "free and fair" was not applicable to the Zimbabwe polls, the EU said.

Earlier Tuesday, the National Constitutional Assembly, an alliance of about 200 civil, religious and opposition groups, said the government must form a commission of inquiry to bring perpetrators of the political violence quickly to justice and to end continuing intimidation and assaults.

Politicians, mainly from the ruling party, openly incited, abetted or condoned attacks on their opponents, assembly spokesman Brian Kagoro said. Police either participated in the violence or failed to stop it, he said.

"This country cannot turn a blind eye to the violence that engulfed us and still engulfs us. Our citizens have to be reassured justice will run its course," Kagoro said.

The violence came as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change presented the strongest electoral challenge to Mugabe's ruling party since it led the country to independence in 1980. The MDC captured 57 of the 120 elected seats, with Mugabe's ruling party winning 62. A small opposition party won one seat.

In the outgoing parliament, Mugabe controlled all but three seats.

Under the constitution, Mugabe is empowered to appoint 30 lawmakers to the 150-seat legislature, allowing him to effectively veto the formation of such a panel.

By ANGUS SHAW