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Britain Says Zimbabwe Needs New Government


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for the African Union to tell Zimbabwean President Mugabe the troubled African country needs a new government. Tendai Maphosa has the details in this report from London.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's call was directed at the African leaders gathered for an AU summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh.

Mr. Mugabe is attending the summit and arrived just hours after he was hastily sworn in for a sixth term in office in Harare on Sunday. He won a runoff election Friday in which he was the only candidate and which has been widely condemned.

Prime Minister Brown said African leaders and the rest of the international community must now take a strong stand.

"I would hope that the African Union with the United Nations will make it absolutely clear to Mr. Mugabe that there has got to be change, a new government has got to be brought in and that when democracy is restored in Zimbabwe we will prepared to help the Zimbabwean people end the poverty and the deprivation and the famine that exists in some parts of the country," he said.

The European Union also dismissed Mr. Mugabe's election victory as "an exercise in power-grabbing" that must not be recognized.

In a statement, the organization's Development Commissioner Louis Michel called for the African Union to seek a political solution. Michel said that given the conditions in which the presidential election runoff took place, it is not possible to recognize the legitimacy of the result.

Friday's presidential runoff election became a one-man race after the withdrawal of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change. Tsvangirai said he was withdrawing because of harassment and violence against his party and supporters.

Mr. Tsvangirai won the most votes in the presidential election on March 29, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said he did not gain an outright majority, thus requiring a runoff. Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party also lost control of parliament in the March election to the MDC for the first time since independence in 1980.

The opposition win triggered a violent campaign by supporters of Mr. Mugabe's party that has left dozens of MDC supporters dead, hundreds maimed and thousands displaced.

Alex Vines once lived in Zimbabwe. He now heads the Africa program at Chatham House, the respected London-based research center. He tells VOA that public condemnation of Mr. Mugabe by his fellow leaders in Egypt is unlikely.

"I think privately a number of heads of state are going to tell Mr. Mugabe about their concerns, but I do think that the African Union will look to encouraging some sort of additional mediation, some sort of compromise," said Vines. "And indeed, Mr. Mugabe is quite isolated within the region and within the African Union there will not be tremendous sympathy for what has just occurred and the condemnation of the electoral process for the presidential runoff by three sets of different African monitors makes it quite difficult for Mr. Mugabe."

Vines added that while the West has been more vocal in condemning Mr. Mugabe, the solution to Zimbabwe's worsening political and economic problems lies in pressure for change, which he said has to come from within the country. Vines also underscored that Zimbabwe's neighbors can play a crucial role in resolving some of these problems.

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