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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 23:36 GMT
UK welcomes Zimbabwe decision
Leaders held talks in London
Leaders held talks in London
The decision to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth for a year has been welcomed by UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

He said the move sent out a "clear" message to President Robert Mugabe who recently won his fifth term in power amid allegations of electoral intimidation.

It follows as a natural and logical consequence from the damning reports of the Commonwealth election observers

Jack Straw
The move came following a meeting between the leaders of South Africa, Australia and Nigeria in London.

They had been charged with deciding the Commonwealth's reaction to the elections in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram called for a new round of elections in the troubled African country.

He said that given the way the result was achieved it was important that the Commonwealth made it clear it was not prepared to accept a regime "which rode roughshod over all the principles of democracy on which the Commonwealth was founded".

"I think it's important to realise that this was a test for the Commonwealth and I would now like to see the EU strengthen its stance on sanctions on Zimbabwe," he told Sky news.

Prime Minister Tony Blair also welcomed the decision.

Down to Mugabe

"He clearly welcomes the decision by the Commonwealth troika and believes that it is absolutely the right thing to do," the prime minister's official spokesman said.

Robert Mugabe
The conduct of the election has been criticised
Mr Straw said that it was down to Mr Mugabe to show he was determined to follow a path of reconciliation after his failure to uphold the rule of law and abide by standards he had previously signed up to.

Although he added that it was "against expectation" that Zimbabwe's president would do so.

The Conservatives want Mr Straw to deliver a Commons' statement in the wake of the Commonwealth's decision.

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo and Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced the suspension after talks at London's Marlborough House.

Mr Howard said that the elections were "marred by a high level of politically motivated violence" which had hampered the free expression of will of the electorate.


Mr Straw said: "In deciding to suspend Zimbabwe, the Commonwealth has today spoken with one voice.

"The message could not be clearer, nor the messengers more significant,"

"It follows as a natural and logical consequence from the damning reports of the Commonwealth election observers."

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"It sends out a very strong message to the people of Zimbabwe"
Zanu-PF external relations secretary Didymus Mutasa
"It is time that Zimbabwe should remove itself from the Commonwealth"
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
"The Zimbabwe government must take this very seriously"
See also:

17 Mar 02 | Africa
Mugabe pledges rapid land reform
14 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Straw condemns Mugabe 'tragedy'
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