Friday, July 4, 2008

Mugabe urged to dialogue with opposition

HARARE (AFP) - President Robert Mugabe returns to Zimbabwe on Wednesday under pressure from fellow African leaders to form a national unity government in the wake of his re-election in a violent poll ruled unfair by monitors.

An African Union summit in Egypt, attended by Mugabe, approved a resolution calling for him to negotiate with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who withdrew from the run-off election because of violence against his supporters.

The resolution fell short of the tougher statement wanted by some African countries, but it was an unprecedented rebuff to Mugabe, previously feted as a liberation hero.

In the strongest public statement from one of Zimbabwe's neighbours since he was sworn in on Sunday, Botswana called for Mugabe to be barred from the AU and the southern African regional body SADC.

Last Friday's second-round election, in which he was the only candidate, was condemned by monitors and much of world opinion as violent and unfair.

"In our considered view . the representatives of the current government in Zimbabwe should be excluded from attending SADC (Southern African Development Community) and African Union meetings," Botswana Vice-President Mompati Merafhe said, according to a text of his remarks.

Botswana said Mugabe's participation in African meetings "would give unqualified legitimacy to a process which cannot be considered legitimate".Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for Mugabe, 84, to be suspended from the AU after the election.

European Union president France said the EU would only accept a Zimbabwean government led by Tsvangirai, echoing a Western position that Mugabe was an illegitimate leader.

Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in the first round of the election on March 29 but withdrew from the run-off after he said pro-government militias killed 86 of his supporters. Botswana's statement underlined deep rifts in Africa and among Zimbabwe's neighbours over how tough to be with Mugabe.

South Africa, the designated mediator in Zimbabwe, has resisted open condemnation. The AU summit, in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, called for SADC mediation, led by South African President Thabo Mbeki, to continue.

Mbeki has been criticised in the region and at home for what is seen as ineffective mediation that favours Mugabe. At the summit, Mugabe attacked his critics in Africa and outside but did not
object to the resolution, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told reporters.

"There was a lengthy debate, many views were put forward including very critical views of the Zimbabwean ruling party and the president," Zaki said.

Mugabe spokesman George Charamba earlier rejected ideas being discussed for a power sharing deal and MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti said there was nochance of negotiations.

Biti said Mugabe's decision to go ahead with the June 27 election "totally and completely exterminated any prospects of a negotiated settlement". MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the party would respond to the AU resolution on Wednesday.

The summit did not back a U.S. push for U.N. sanctions against Mugabe, including an arms embargo.

Source: AFP

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