Will Zimbabwean sanctions be eased in return for reform?

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Photo: Reuters

European Union governments will today consider the easing of sanctions against Zimbabwe in exchange for constitutional reform.

Restrictions could be lifted against "all but a handful" of the 112 Zimbabweans who had travel bans and asset freezes placed against them in 2002, ITV News has been told.

Sanctions against President Robert Mugabe would remain in place under the proposals.

The EU may also agree reforms allowing its governments to give direct aid to the Mugabe government. Currently, aid is distributed through European charities which operate in the country.

Britain, the former colonial power, will attempt to achieve the agreement amongst European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels later.

The move is aimed at persuading Robert Mugabe to hold a fair referendum on constitutional changes within the next year.

European governments have considered the easing of sanctions since an uneasy power-sharing deal was agreed between President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai after disputed elections in 2008.

Australia is also considering lifting sanctions. Its ministers will take advice from visiting Prime Minister Tsvangirai this week.

Mugabe has frequently blamed "imperialist sanctions" for many of Zimbabwe's past economic woes.

Officials in Harare have previously said that nothing less than the unconditional lifting of sanctions against all Zimbabweans would be satisfactory.