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Top AU Diplomat Calls on Africa to 'Shoulder' Responsibility for Zimbabwe Solution

The African Union's top diplomat says Africa must "shoulder its responsibilities" and do everything in its power to resolve the political conflict in Zimbabwe.

African Union Commissioner Jean Ping spoke Monday at the opening session of the 11th African Union summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe in attendance.

Mr. Mugabe walked into the main conference hall flanked by other African leaders, one day after declaring victory in Zimbabwe's one-man election.

Many international leaders have dismissed the vote as a sham, and AU election monitors said today the election fell short of the union's democratic standards.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement calling Zimbabwe's election "deeply flawed," and urged Mr. Mugabe and the opposition to negotiate.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Beijing for talks with Chinese leaders called on the U.N. Security Council to take up the issue of Zimbabwe.

She also said she expected the U.N. to do more than issue "just another statement."

Also today, South Africa called on President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party to begin talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party to form a transitional government.

Although Zimbabwe was not scheduled to be the focus of the two-day African Union summit, the country's runoff election has so far dominated the conversation among the leaders.

Africa's top diplomats and politicians met in closed session for several hours Sunday and early Monday to discuss how to respond to Mr. Mugabe's challenge to democracy.

One of the questions facing the AU is whether to recognize him as Zimbabwe's legitimate leader.

The summit in Egypt is also expected to address the union's millennium development goals on water and sanitation.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.