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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 18:10 GMT
Obasanjo defends Zimbabwe decision
Obasanjo, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and South African President Thabo Mbeki
Obasanjo (left) said Zimbabwe needed reconciliation
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has said the Commonwealth decided to suspend Zimbabwe for a year because there had not been "adequate provisions" in the country's presidential elections to allow everyone to express their will.

In a BBC interview, Mr Obasanjo explained the decision he made on Tuesday with two other Commonwealth leaders.


In the end our conclusion is that there are not adequate provisions to make everyone in Zimbabwe express his or her will in that election

Olusegun Obasanjo
They supsended Zimbabwe from the body's councils for a year in response to President Robert Mugabe's controversial victory in 9-11 March elections.

Mr Obasanjo added that the answer to Zimbabwe's problems was not more elections but reconciliation and the emergence of a coalition government.

He said that Mr Mugabe and his main challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, had both agreed that their parties would hold talks.

But Mr Obasanjo said that Mr Mugabe had not reacted well to the Commonwealth decision.

"He took it badly as one would expect, but I believe he will understand," he said, adding that he did not think his long-standing personal relationship with Mr Mugabe would suffer as a result.

Reconciliation not elections

Mr Obasanjo said it was up to the Commonwealth to take its decision on the basis of the report made by its own observers in the Zimbabwe elections, which in this case was highly critical.

Robert Mugabe
Mugabe 'took the Commonwealth decision badly'
"In the end our conclusion is that there are not adequate provisions to make everyone in Zimbabwe express his or her will in that election," he said.

Asked what action should now be taken in Zimbabwe, Mr Obasanjo said the first thing that was required was reconciliation.

"Whether you run two elections or three elections is not the issue," he said.

"The problem of Zimbabwe is reconciliation, the revival of the economy and dealing with ... the shortage of food.

"We are convinced that the division that now exists in Zimbabwe cannot resolve those essential issues."

He said that from reconciliation "some form of coalition government" would emerge, followed by another election in the "short to medium term".

But he would not say whether he thought this would happen within Zimbabwe's year of suspension.

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 ON THIS STORY
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo
"Whether you run two elections or three elections is not the issue"
See also:

22 Mar 02 | Africa
Mugabe rival charged with treason
20 Mar 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe offered carrot and stick
20 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: John Howard
26 Feb 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe's treason tape saga
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