BRUSSELS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - The European Union eased sanctions on Zimbabwe on Monday to reward it for political reforms and also agreed to lift sanctions on a state-run Zimbabwe diamond mining company if the country holds fair elections.
The bloc imposed the penalties in 2002 in protest against human rights abuses and violations of democracy under the rule of veteran leader President Robert Mugabe.
It reviews the sanctions annually and in recent years has eased them to encourage reforms being pursued by Zimbabwe's four-year-old coalition government, in which Mugabe shares power with his political rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels suspended a travel ban on six unnamed members of the Zimbabwe government and removed 21 unnamed people and one company from the list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes.
The ministers hammered out a compromise on whether to remove from the same list state-run mining firm the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), which operates five diamond mines in Zimbabwe's rich Marange fields.
ZMDC will be removed from the list within a month of elections being held in Zimbabwe, provided the polls are 'peaceful, transparent (and) credible', Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told reporters.
Belgium, home to the world's biggest diamond trading centre in Antwerp, had pushed for ZMDC to be freed from sanctions but countries such as Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, had opposed its immediate removal from the list.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Justyna Pawlak and Pravin Char) Keywords: ZIMBABWE EU/
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