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Friday, 19 May, 2000, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Blair and Mbeki unite over Zimbabwe
Mr Mbeki, Mr Blair
Mr Blair said discussions with Mr Mbeki were "stimulating"
Prime Minister Tony Blair and South African President Thabo Mbeki have called for a large team of international observers to be sent as soon as possible to ensure elections in Zimbabwe are free and fair.

The two leaders were speaking after talks in Downing Street described by Mr Blair as "stimulating".

The prime minister said he and Mr Mbeki shared a key goal over the crisis in Zimbabwe - to return stability and prosperity to the country.

The talks came as the opposition party in Zimbabwe said two people had been killed and a number of others injured in a clash with supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party.

Mr Blair and Mr Mbeki welcomed the announcement of elections in the country while the prime minister applauded the South African president's "quiet diplomacy" over the issue.

He said: "We agreed on the elections being free and fair. Any initiative by the UN would be of immense importance and help in trying to deal with difficult issues."

'Violence must end'

Mr Mbeki sad it was vital that the violence in Zimbabwe ended and the conflict over land addressed in a way that benefited everyone in the country.

He said that he supported UN intervention to move the process forward and ensure free and fair elections.

In comments echoed by Mr Blair, he added: "What we have got to aim at is that all of this violence must come to an end.

"It is necessary to send in as many observers as possible as early as possible."

Mr Mbeki has been playing a key role behind the scenes in private contacts with Harare over the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Mr Blair congratulated Mr Mbeki on the strength of the South African economy - saying the country could "help drive renaissance in Africa, bringing democracy and prosperity to all African people".

Training programme

The prime minister said Britain would offer more help towards modernising the South African Defence Force, while UK police offices would train an elite South African police unit to help the country tackle its spiralling crime rate.

The Metropolitan Police force has set up a 500,000 ($750,000) training programme for 100 officers from the special South African unit known as the Scorpions.

Mr Mbeki was earlier awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen.

The award - a GCMG or Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George - was presented to the South African president during a 20-minute audience with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Mr Mbeki is accompanied by a high-level delegation including Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Defence Minister, Patrick Lekota, and the Trade and Industry minister Alec Erwin.

The South African president is due to leave Britain on Saturday for a five-day tour of the United States.

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See also:

18 May 00 | UK
Queen honours Mbeki
18 May 00 | Africa
'No land crisis in SA' - Mbeki
15 May 00 | Africa
What can the Commonwealth do?
10 May 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe poll boycott threat
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