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Sunday, 12 August, 2001, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Packed agenda for SADC leaders
Aids patient
SADC leaders will look at ways to conquer Aids
By the BBC's Jane Warr

Leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have arrived in Malawi for the start of their annual three-day summit.

Africa's devastating Aids epidemic, debt, poverty and regional conflicts are among the issues on the agenda of the meeting, in the city of Blantyre.

Congo rebels
The Democratic Republic of Congo's conflict will be discussed
Namibia's Trade Minister, Hidip Hamutenya, said the SADC meeting would agree closer collaboration on security issues as well as plans to halt the market in illicit firearms in a region prone to crime and conflict.

Southern Africa has been ravaged by an Aids epidemic that is killing off much of the young workforce.

SADC leaders will look at a range of options to conquer the disease, including cheaper drugs.

Ministers will also approve new plans for a common SADC visa, which will be called the Univisa, aimed at boosting tourism - which is widely regarded as a sector with great potential for creating employment.

'Quiet diplomacy'

The heads of state will also review peace moves in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the armies of Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia are backing the government against an eastern rebel offensive that has the support of Rwanda and Uganda.

White farmers arrested in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe's white-owned farm seizures are a sign of a region in conflict
The perception of the SADC as a region in conflict has been highlighted by the seizure of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe which has been sanctioned by the government.

Sources at the conference said the summit would attempt "quiet diplomacy" to persuade Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to restore stability.

The South African President, Thabo Mbeki, has been criticised at home and abroad for this softly-softly approach to Mr Mugabe.

He admitted last week that efforts to halt Zimbabwe's economic collapse through dialogue had so far failed.

But Mr Mugabe said on Sunday that his land reform drive was humane and did not mean that his government was throwing white farmers out of the country.

See also:

02 Aug 01 | Africa
Fighting mars Congo anniversary
31 Oct 00 | Africa
United States of Southern Africa?
12 May 99 | Aids
Aids Africa's top killer
11 Aug 01 | Africa
Mugabe denounces sanctions threat
13 Mar 01 | Africa
Mbeki's dilemma over Zimbabwe
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