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Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 15:33 UK

Africa urged to act on Zimbabwe

Asha-Rose Migiro criticised "violence and intimidation" in Zimbabwe's run-off poll

The UN has urged African leaders at a key summit in Egypt to try to negotiate a solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe.

UN Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro said this was the "moment of truth" for the African Union leaders.

President Robert Mugabe is attending the meeting. He was sworn in on Sunday after a victory that observers said had been undermined by pre-poll violence.

South Africa has now urged Mr Mugabe to hold talks with the opposition towards forming a transitional government.

Mr Mugabe claimed a landslide victory as the sole candidate after the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, withdrew.

The South African presidency said it would consider reports from election observers together with other members of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) before adopting a unified position regarding the result.

Draft resolution

Ms Migiro told the leaders of the 53-nation AU: "This is a moment of truth for regional leaders... the secretary-general urges your excellencies to mobilise support for a negotiated solution."

She added: "This is the single greatest challenge to regional stability in southern Africa."

Ms Migiro again expressed UN regret that the election had been allowed to go ahead despite the violence.

The vote fell short of the African Union's standards of democratic elections
African Union monitors

In his welcoming speech, host President Hosni Mubarak said bolstering peace and security was "essential for resolving disputes and conflicts in the continent".

The AU has a rule not to accept leaders who have not been democratically elected - but observers say it is unlikely to take such strong action against Mr Mugabe so quickly.

A draft resolution written by African foreign ministers during talks ahead of the summit did not criticise the elections or Mr Mugabe, but condemned violence in general terms and called for dialogue.

President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, the African Union chairman, pointedly congratulated the people of Zimbabwe over the election, but not Mr Mugabe himself.

He said he "commiserated with them for their suffering" and said there were "even more challenges" ahead.

Africa's longest serving leader, Gabon President Omar Bongo, has given the strongest suggestion of recognising Mr Mugabe as president, saying "he was elected, he took an oath, and he is here with us, so he is president".

Independent observers have criticised the poll.

The AU's own monitors said on Monday: "The vote fell short of the African Union's standards of democratic elections."

ZIMBABWE AND ITS NEIGHBOURS

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Zimbabwe's opposition wants neighbouring countries to persuade Robert Mugabe to step down. So how are relations changing?

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South Africa's leader Thabo Mbeki remains the key mediator. He has not criticised Mr Mugabe, despite pressure from the ruling ANC.

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Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa called Zimbabwe a "regional embarrassment", before suffering a stroke on 29 June.

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Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is one of Robert Mugabe's closest allies. He has urged Mr Mugabe to end the violence.

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Botswana said Zimbabwe's 27 June run-off vote was so flawed by violence that it could not be considered legitimate.

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Namibia is an ally of Robert Mugabe. It wants to re-distribute white-owned farms to black villagers. It has not criticised the violence.

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Mozambique has hosted some white farmers forced out of Zimbabwe when their land was seized. It is seen as sympathetic to the opposition.

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Tanzania's ruling party has a history of backing Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Its foreign minister has condemned the violence.

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DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila is an ally of Robert Mugabe who sent troops to help his father, Laurent Kabila, fight rebels.

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Malawi is seen as neutral. But 3m people from Malawi are in Zimbabwe and many were badly hit by the farm invasions.

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However, the said they were "encouraged" by the willingness of the MDC and Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF to hold talks.

Earlier, Sadc observers said there was "politically-motivated violence, intimidation and displacements".

The Pan-African Parliament called for fresh elections to be held, saying the vote was not free or fair.

On Monday South Africa's foreign ministry said Zanu-PF and the MDC "must enter into negotiations which will lead to the formation of a transitional government".

The MDC has previously criticised South Africa's role and on Monday called for an additional mediator to be appointed to work alongside President Thabo Mbeki.

Also on Monday, France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the election was a "farce".

UK PM Gordon Brown said: "I hope that the African Union and its leaders will make it absolutely clear that there has to be change and a new government has got to be brought in."

Separately, on the eve of the summit, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, one of Mr Mugabe's leading critics, was rushed to hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. He is said to be stable.

Mr Mwanawasa suffered a mild stroke, Reuters news agency quoted Zambian Vice President Rupiah Banda as saying.

Spoilt ballots

Mr Mugabe was sworn in during a quickly convened ceremony on Sunday, about an hour after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced the results of the presidential election run-off.

The commission said Mr Mugabe won 85.5% of the vote, but many ballots were spoiled.

In a speech that followed the ceremony, Mr Mugabe said he was committed to talks with the opposition to find a solution to the crisis.

However, BBC Southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says the opposition may reject any notion of a government of national unity in which Mr Mugabe is still in a key position.

The MDC said some 86 of its supporters were killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to the ruling Zanu-PF party in the weeks preceding the run-off.

The government has blamed the MDC for the violence.

Mr Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980.


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