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EU Military Operation for Zimbabwe
30 April 2000
By Christina Lamb and Philip Sherwell
Secret plans to evacuate Europeans from Zimbabwe in armoured convoys have been drawn up by Britain and its EU allies. Emergency escape routes have been mapped out through neighbouring Mozambique and South Africa, to be used if President Mugabe's campaign of violence against white farmers and the black opposition intensifies. Jose Lello, the Portuguese minister of communications, revealed yesterday that there have been a series of meetings between EU partners on the evacuation of European nationals. "As the former colonial power, Britain has played a key role," said Mr Lello, whose country currently holds the EU presidency. In the event of the crisis worsening, messages will be broadcast on the BBC World Service and other radio stations to bring together EU nationals at points in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare.
EU passport holders will then be transported in armed convoys to the port of Beira in Mozambique or over Beit Bridge into South Africa. Senior British military training officers in Zimbabwe have been told to stand by. Britain's historical links and military expertise mean that it would take the lead in any evacuation operation. There are more than 20,000 EU passport holders in Zimbabwe, most of them British. The Foreign Office denied German media reports that Britain has prepared a rapid reaction force to be stationed in Mozambique, but confirmed that there was a contingency strategy. The details have been kept confidential. The Telegraph has learned that the British High Commission revised its plans after the murder of two white farmers and at least 10 opposition activists.
The revelations came as Mr Mugabe announced that he would invoke emergency powers to seize white-owned farms without compensation. The country was also hit by fresh violence as at least 27 farm labourers were badly beaten in attacks overnight.
Sunday Telegraph (UK)
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