Southern African nations on Monday lined up behind Robert Mugabe in a row over whether the Zimbabwean president would be invited to an EU-Africa summit in December, saying they would boycott the event if he was banned.
The meeting in Lisbon would be the first in seven years. Plans for an EU-Africa summit in 2003 were put on hold after Britain and other EU states refused to attend if Mugabe did. They accuse him of rights abuses and rigging elections.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last week it would be inappropriate for him to attend if Mugabe was present because the Zimbabwean leader would divert attention from important aspects of the agenda.
But leaders of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have warned the summit could be scuttled if the Zimbabwean leader, who is barred from travelling to parts of Western Europe as a result of targeted sanctions, was not invited.
In an interview with Reuters, Mozambican Foreign Affairs Minister Alcide Abreu said her government agreed with the SADC position that Mugabe must be invited to take part.
"We support African strategies," Abreu said in a telephone interview in the Mozambican capital Maputo. "We support the position taken by the leadership of these bodies (SADC and AU)."
Zimbabwe is facing many problems resulting from sabotage by Britain and other western nations upset over the land reform.