Brussels: The European Union is expected to keep up sanctions on Zimbabwe but remove a third of the people from its list of those affected by asset freezes and visa bans, EU diplomats said on Tuesday.
The arms embargo will remain in place and a freeze in development aid will be extended for another six months, the diplomats said.
The decision, expected to be announced on Friday, comes after President Robert Mugabe`s coalition government stabilised an economy that a few years ago struggled with food shortages.
However, Mugabe still controls the security organs, who have not made themselves properly accountable, and his government has failed so far to implement reforms, including a law to ensure fair elections.
"The EU supports the reform process," said one EU diplomat. "We recognise the progress made but expect that further progress will be made in the coming months ... We want to continue sanctions on those abusing power."
Fifty-one individuals will be removed from the list of people whose assets were frozen and who were not allowed visas to travel to the EU. Twenty entities will also be dropped from the list.
But another 112 individuals, including Mugabe, and 11 entities will stay on the list. These are people seen by the EU as undermining democracy, human rights and the rule of law, said one of the diplomats.
Zimbabwe`s foreign and justice ministers will have their visa bans suspended so that they can take part in talks with the EU.
The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), an organisation promoting democracy and human rights, said the EU was premature in removing some of the names from the list.
"Those people under sanction have not done anything appreciable that would warrant lifting the measures," said the group`s executive director, Sisonke Msimang. "In some cases, their behaviour has grown worse," added Msimang, without elaborating.
The decision on sanctions is expected be taken at a meeting of EU employment ministers.
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, and members of his ZANU-PF party were hit with sanctions in response to suspected mass human rights violations and vote rigging.
He has said he would not quit as long as the West maintained sanctions on his party, and has repeated calls for an election next year. He says the coalition government he was forced into with his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, after disputed elections in 2008 was no longer working.