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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 August 2007, 04:58 GMT 05:58 UK
No pressure on Mugabe from summit
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe (L) enjoyed a warm welcome from Lusaka delegates
Southern African leaders are putting no public pressure on Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to solve his country's dire political and economic crises.

After a two-day conference in Zambia's capital, Lusaka, delegates said only that they welcomed "progress" in talks between Zimbabwe's rival politicians.

The US called on the region's leaders to "press vigorously" for an end to the country's "man-made crisis".

Inflation stands at about 4,500% in Zimbabwe and food shortages are common.

Peace plea

Increasing numbers of Zimbabweans are fleeing to neighbouring countries, leading some analysts to suggest that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit would put pressure on Mr Mugabe.

But the communique issued at the end of the conference made no mention of the country's economic problems.

Political reform is not necessary in my country
Patrick Chinamasa
Zimbabwe justice minister

Instead, the declaration welcomed efforts by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki to mediate between Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party, and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

It called on both sides to "expedite the process of negotiations and conclude the work as soon as possible" so that Zimbabwe's elections, planned for March next year, could be "held in an atmosphere of peace".

But MDC officials, who were lobbying in Lusaka, said Mr Mbeki was moving too slowly.

Problems 'exaggerated'

After the conference Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa, who has previously compared Zimbabwe to a "sinking Titanic", played down the crisis facing the country.

We deplore the Mugabe regime's continued acts of oppression against all segments of society
Sean McCormack
US state department

"We also feel that the problems in Zimbabwe have been exaggerated. We feel they will solve their economic problems," he said.

He added that Zimbabwe's current voting laws were "valid to enable free and fair elections".

Earlier, Zimbabwe's justice minister had told the summit that no political reforms were needed in Zimbabwe.

"Political reform is not necessary in my country because we are a democracy like any other democracy in the world," Patrick Chinamasa said, Reuters news agency reports.

But the US state department said Mr Mugabe's government had not shown any commitment to a democratic, prosperous Zimbabwe.

"Its obstructive actions, such as lack of participation in scheduled talks and statements arguing against the need for mediation, have undermined this important initiative," spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"Moreover, we deplore the Mugabe regime's continued acts of oppression against all segments of society."


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Southern African leaders at the summit



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