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PORT OF SPAIN (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown held out the prospect on Friday that Zimbabwe could be re-admitted to the Commonwealth in 2011 if it pushes ahead with reforms.
Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003 after the organisation renewed a suspension imposed a year earlier when veteran President Robert Mugabe won re-election in a poll some observers said was rigged.
In an article for the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, Brown said Zimbabwe's power-sharing government had chalked up achievements, including raising living standards and taming hyper-inflation.
But he said opponents of reform, both inside and outside Zimbabwe, would do everything possible to obstruct change.
The article was released in Trinidad and Tobago, where Brown is attending a summit of the Commonwealth, which groups 53 countries, mostly former British colonies.
"I sincerely hope that by the time of our next meeting in 2011, Zimbabwe will have made enough progress for us to welcome them back into the Commonwealth," Brown said.
Britain would channel 60 million pounds in aid to Zimbabwe this year and was ready to do more once the Zimbabwean government showed it was ready to implement a power-sharing agreement, he said.
"That means progress on reforms in security, justice and the economy -- including restructuring the central bank to improve management of the public finances -- and embracing a vibrant free press," Brown said.
"Political reform must include repeal of repressive legislation, an inclusive process leading to a revised constitution, and above all respect for human rights," Brown added.
"And ultimately Zimbabwe must hold genuinely free and fair elections."
"Such actions will drive the decision about whether to lift the European Union asset freeze and travel ban against the 203 Zimbabweans involved in the violence and human rights abuses, and on 40 companies associated with them," Brown said.
Brown suggested this week that the Commonwealth should make a conditional offer to Zimbabwe by holding out the possibility it could rejoin the group if it delivered on reforms.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Reuters