African Press International (API)

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South African president Mbeki gets specific on Zimbabwean crisis

Posted by African Press International on March 31, 2007

Mbeki confident mediation can help Zimbabwe crisis

JOHANNESBURG, March 31 (Reuters) – South African President Thabo Mbeki said he was confident new mediation could help resolve Zimbabwe’s political crisis, but warned that neither the government nor opposition should attach conditions to the talks. 

Mbeki, named last week by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to promote dialogue between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told the SABC broadcaster Western calls for tougher moves on Zimbabwe were misplaced.

“As a region we are quite convinced that the only way to solve the problem is the direction we have taken,” Mbeki said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.

The United States said African nations “fell short” in putting pressure on Mugabe at a special summit in Tanzania last week, which saw SADC call for an end to sanctions on Mugabe’s government and a new political dialogue.

Tensions in Zimbabwe have risen sharply in the last two weeks after police arrested and beat MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and other activists in a move that spurred widespread international condemnation.

Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Friday formally endorsed the 83-year-old leader as its candidate for presidential elections next year, a move which could see him extend his rule over the country into a third decade.

Mbeki, who has tried and failed to facilitate dialogue between Mugabe and the MDC in the past, said he believed all sides in Zimbabwe agreed that political talks were the best way to address the crisis.

“Both MDC groups – the one led by (Morgan) Tsvangirai, and the other by (rival MDC faction leader Arthur) Mutambara – have not complained to us. Mugabe and ZANU-PF have not complained,” Mbeki said.

Tsvangirai’s MDC has warned it may not participate in the 2008 elections if Mugabe is a candidate, accusing him of rigging a series of previous elections.

But Mbeki said such pre-conditions would do little to improve the situation in Zimbabwe, where an accelerating economic collapse is increasing political tensions.

“If people have issues to raise, they should raise it in the context of discussion,” he said

Posted by Karuga Njuguna, Published by African Press in Norway, apn, tel +47 932 99 739 or +47 6300 2525

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