The situation in Zimbabwe has now degenerated into a macabre farce. Last week President Mugabe announced that the pay of the country's security forces would be doubled.

This week the chiefs of the five arms of the security services – the Army and Air Force, the police and prison services and the Central Intelligence Service – announced that they would refuse to to recognise any victory in the forthcoming presidential election other than Robert Mugabe's.

The only positive thing that can be said about what is, in reality, a military coup is that it was bloodless. But from every other point of view it is a negation of every principle that the Commonwealth and the Organisation of African Unity are supposed to stand for. Earlier this week Jack Straw, Britain's foreign minister, said that he intended to propose to other Commonwealth members that Zimbabwe should be suspended from membership if the situation there deteriorated still further. Within forty–eight hours the announcement by the security forces that President Mugabe had, in effect, already won the election due to be held in early March showed that the deterioration had already taken place.

Yesterday the Zimbabwean parliament passed a public order bill that virtually abolishes free speech, expels foreign journalists and threatens sanyone who criticises the president with jail.

It has been argued earlier that suspending Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth might rally voters behind Mugabe and isolate the opposition. It is now clear that the election is meaningless. The British government should now press for immediate suspension of links with Mugabe's Zimbabwe by the Commonwealth and the European Union. Nothing less will do.

Ray Fleming

Scandinavian lead

The news that Sweden and Denmark may well hold referendums on membership of the euro early in 2003 will give a boost to those pressing for a UK referendum as soon as possible. If these Scandanavian countries were to go ahead on this timing, with positive outcomes, without comparable action from London, Britain's isolation in the European Union would be complete. Over the past year there has been a decided shift in Swedish attitudes to euro membership and recent polls indicate that just over half of voters favour entry. In Denmark the position is not so clear but the recently–elected coalition government is strongly pro–euro and would certainly be encouraged by a positive move from Sweden. However there are two provisos: the Swedish prime minister, Goran Persson will first have to win an election in September; and it should not be forgotten that Danish voters are particularly independent–minded and have already rejected euro membership in the past.

The mild euphoria towards the euro, engendered by its successful launch ten days ago, may not last and therefore when the British government considers the relevance of the likely Swedish and Danish referendums on single currency membership it will have to take into account the possibility that one or both of them could be lost. In any case, it seems probable that a UK referendum would follow these others and those campaigning pro and con would be able to take their results fully into account.



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