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Monday, 10 February, 2003, 23:29 GMT
Commonwealth 'to re-admit' Zimbabwe
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, and President  Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria
The "troika" could not agree on the way ahead
South Africa and Nigeria do not want Zimbabwe's one-year suspension from the Commonwealth to be extended when it ends in March.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that the South African and Nigerian leaders had told him they did not agree with his view that further measures should be taken against Zimbabwe because of political and human rights violations.

They didn't agree with me that further measures should be taken against Zimbabwe

John Howard
Australian Prime Minister
Australia, Nigeria and South Africa are the three countries in the "troika" named by the Commonwealth to oversee its response to the situation in Zimbabwe, and which pressed for its suspension from the organisation last year.

They were due to meet next month to review Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth committees.

But the decision by Nigeria and South Africa to cancel the meeting would effectively see Zimbabwe readmitted to the 54-nation grouping of mainly former British colonies, Mr Howard admitted.

In Harare, two Zimbabwean cricket players have worn black arm bands in their opening World Cup game in protest at human rights abuses by President Robert Mugabe's government.

Zimbabwe players Andy Flower and Henry Olonga said they decided on the protest during the match against Namibia because they were "mourning the death of democracy in our country".

Mr Howard, who is in Washington for talks on Iraq with US President George W Bush, said South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki told him in a telephone conversation on Saturday that South Africa and Nigeria did not want to hold another meeting of the panel.

If the panel does not meet, the suspension lapses and Zimbabwe would automatically be readmitted to the Commonwealth.

Electoral controversy

In March, the Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe from its councils for a year, following Mr Mugabe's controversial re-election.

At the time, the Commonwealth said the poll was "carried out in an atmosphere of intimidation" and "did not reflect the views of the Zimbabwean people".

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe was banned over Mugabe's controversial re-election
Mr Howard said he disagreed with the decision and wanted the suspension to continue until the next meeting of Commonwealth leaders next year.

"Zimbabwe has not done anything effectively to respond to what it was asked to do," Mr Howard said.

"If anything, the situation appears to have deteriorated."

The prime minister said that, as chairman of the panel, he would write to Commonwealth leaders and recommend the suspension remain in place until the next Commonwealth summit.

A spokesman for Mr Mbeki said South Africa was disappointed that Mr Howard had spoken out about the troika's consultations.

President Olusegun Obasanjo met President Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai at the weekend.

After talks with President Mbeki in South Africa on Friday, Mr Obasanjo was quoted as saying that Zimbabwe could not be helped out of its predicament "if we become unduly and unnecessarily critical and antagonistic".

The European Union has imposed a travel ban on senior Zimbabwean officials throughout the EU.

Any assets they hold have also been frozen.

That ban is due to end later this month and it is not clear whether it will be renewed.

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See also:

10 Feb 03 | England
10 Feb 03 | England
23 Sep 02 | Africa
22 Sep 02 | Africa
19 Mar 02 | Africa
20 Mar 02 | Africa
10 Feb 03 | Africa
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