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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 21:56 GMT
Zimbabwe 'should not be isolated'
President Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe says the "white" Commonwealth members hold a grudge
Foreign ministers in the southern African region have urged the Commonwealth not to isolate Zimbabwe.

But they stopped short of calling for the country to be invited to next week's Commonwealth summit in Nigeria.

They made the appeal after Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe threatened to leave the organisation.

The Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe last year over charges Mr Mugabe had rigged his re-election and is barring it from a summit in Nigeria next week.

The group of 54 nations, which are mainly former British colonies, is holding a summit in Abuja on 5-8 December.

'Constructive dialogue'

Mr Mugabe says the "white section" of the Commonwealth holds a grudge against him due to his policy of seizing white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.

Is it the African solidarity and sovereignty... or is it the strength, the power of the few whites in the Commonwealth that should dominate the view of the Commonwealth?
Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe president

He also accuses Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon of New Zealand of being biased against his country.

Speaking at a funeral on Friday, Mr Mugabe said: "If our sovereignty is what we have to lose to be readmitted into the Commonwealth, well we will say goodbye to the Commonwealth, and perhaps the time has now come to say so."

Foreign ministers from Lesotho, Mozambique and South Africa later met in Pretoria to discuss the decision not to invite Mr Mugabe to the forthcoming summit.

They called on the Commonwealth to "persuade the government of Zimbabwe to engage in constructive dialogue with stakeholders in that country, including civil society and opposition parties".

Nations have always dealt with corrupt governments
Yvonne McNair, USA

Zimbabwean appeal

Mr Mugabe said it was a question of whether "African solidarity and sovereignty" or "the power of the few whites" should dominate the views of the Commonwealth.

The Canadian Government has told Mr Mugabe to attend to his own country's problems rather than attacking the "white" members of the Commonwealth.

A spokeswoman said: "Mr Mugabe is trying to defend his position. I presume he must feel pretty vulnerable."

Mr Mugabe wants Southern African nations to support him by boycotting the Abuja talks. However, the leaders of both Malawi and Zambia have already said they will attend.

President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia said that not going to Abuja would allow those countries which wished to isolate Zimbabwe to "draw up their plans".

The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"If Mugabe lives up to his threat, it could seriously jeopardise chances of finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe

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