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Secretary of State to Chair Security Council Meeting on Zimbabwe

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council today on the crisis in Zimbabwe. Some Zimbabweans have reportedly welcomed the meeting, eight days ahead of a widely criticized presidential election run-off, hoping it would put pressure on incumbent President Robert Mugabe to end a wave of violence.

The Security Council meeting comes after a U.N. special envoy met with President Mugabe on Tuesday to find ways of ending violence and ensure a free and fair vote. Sydney Masamvu is a Zimbabwean with the International Crisis Group in South Africa. From Pretoria, he tells VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey that the meeting would put pressure on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to be proactive in the Zimbabwe situation.

“I think it is a very important gathering. The very fact that it is informal is neither here nor there. But that the very fact that it brings to the fore of the key players on the international stage the crisis in Zimbabwe, and coming a week before the election is actually a very important gathering. And it will highlight the relevant actors from the African continent and from the west, the situation in Zimbabwe, and try to put into perspective and build an international consensus on the way forward regarding Zimbabwe,” Masamvu pointed out.

He said many Zimbabweans are looking for a positive outcome to today’s UN meeting in New York.

“It is a very important development coming against the background of the deteriorating political situation in Zimbabwe in the run up to the election. And I think Secretary Rice should actually spell out the concerns of the US government, as well as the need for international actors not to work at cross-purpose in order to resolve this deepening crisis in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Masamvu said the prestige of having the US Secretary of State chairing a meeting the over Zimbabwe would add clout to its outcome and put more pressure on the Harare government.

“I think in so far as those involved in the gathering would be forthright to each other, the bottom line is to actually appreciate the gravity of the situation in Zimbabwe. And I think the very fact that is happening at the UN level that alone is very important and also given that the U.N. envoy is in Zimbabwe also on the ground actually shows that the spotlight is on Zimbabwe as we head for this decisive run-off. But it is actually important that it will put pressure not only on the Zimbabwe government, but also on the need for regional leaders, especially SADC and other African continent heads, to step up to the plate and try really to have an active and robust engagement to resolve the crisis,” Masamvu noted.

Masamvu said it was unlikely Zimbabwe’s neighbor South Africa would alter its “quiet diplomacy” policies toward Harare.

“Given the history of South Africa and the way it has taken its quiet way to deal with Zimbabwe issue, I don’t expect much of a deviation from the South African line, except to say that they would still argue that they are having a hands off approach to the Zimbabwe issue and the U.N. should defer to the region, which is actually grappling with the issue. So, really given the South African approach to protect Zimbabwe at any international turn, I don’t expect [South Africa’s] Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to really take a proactive and robust line to make any meaningful disclosures, which may actually deviate from President Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy policy,” Masamvu pointed out.