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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 09:00 GMT
Region ponders Zimbabwe action
Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo and Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe
Obasanjo met Mugabe before flying to London
Nigerian and South African newspapers have called on their country's presidents to make a stand against what they see as malpractice in Zimbabwe's elections.

Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo are meeting Australian Prime Minister John Howard to decide how the Commonwealth should respond to President Robert Mugabe's election victory.

Nigeria's This Day was pessimistic over the outcome of the Commonwealth meeting in London.

"I can't see how our president will be there in London and allow Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth," the paper quoted a presidential aide as saying.

Thabo Mbeki
Mbeki will be "voice of reason" at Commonwealth talks

The paper deplored Zimbabwe's "malpractice" during the election, saying accepting the result would be an indication that President Obasanjo could get away with a similar scenario in Nigeria when it comes to the vote on his own presidency.

"In Zimbabwe, there are clear glaring violations of democratic processes, human rights abuses. Yet, Obasanjo saw no evil, heard no evil in Zimbabwe," the paper reported, quoting former foreign minister, Bolaji Akinyemi.

In a similar vein the Nigerian news website accused President Obasanjo of "taking care of Mugabe's knotty problems overseas, on behalf of Nigerians, without their consent".

Mr Obasanjo "has worked tirelessly on behalf of Robert Mugabe, leading a black lobby in Australia to defeat the campaign for stiff sanctions against Zimbabwe, where politics has progressively degenerated as a result of sustained state-sponsored terrorism", the website said.

South Africa

Some South African observers were perhaps more constructive in their message to President Mbeki, calling for a deal with Mr Mugabe.

But some analysts, like their Nigerian counterparts, felt Mr Mbeki was unlikely to tackle the issue head-on in London.

The Citizen in Johannesburg rejected the view that Mr Mbeki "will be a voice of sweet reason" at the meeting.

Mbeki has not squeezed any concessions from Mugabe in the past, and he won't do so now

The Citizen
It said Mr Mbeki was unlikely to "do his utmost to persuade Robert Mugabe to accept a compromise acceptable in the eyes of the donors and investors Zimbabwe desperately needs".

"Time and again Mbeki has shown his sympathies lie first and foremost with an African solidarity. For this reason he has not squeezed any concessions from Mugabe in the past, and he won't do so now," the paper added.

Business Day said Mr Mbeki should argue in London for a government of national unity in Zimbabwe, warning him against pursuing the course of an election re-run.

"The conditions appear conducive for a deal: both the main parties look desperate enough to be nudged into accepting it."

The moral issue should be as clear to Mbeki as it is to the majority of Zimbabweans whom Mugabe has cheated of the president they want

Daily Mail & Guardian
"At any rate, there is no guarantee that rerunning the election, as some analysts are suggesting, will not worsen the acute political polarisation in Zimbabwe".

The Daily Mail & Guardian urged Mr Mbeki to take a firm moral stand on Zimbabwe.

"The moral issue should be as clear to Mbeki as it is to the majority of Zimbabweans whom Mugabe has cheated of the president they want," the paper said.

"But Mbeki has all the intellectual equipment needed - and much more - to take a rational approach to Mugabe, much as he does to the issues before our economy. Let us hope he can bring himself to do so".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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