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Leaders Meet to Consider Commonwealth Sanctions Against Zimbabwe - 2002-03-19


Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasango of Nigeria and Australian Prime Minister John Howard meet in London Tuesday to consider Commonwealth sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The three leaders have been assigned by the 54-nation Commonwealth to decide on possible sanctions against Zimbabwe amid accusations that last week's election was rigged in favor of President Robert Mugabe.

Election observers from the Commonwealth have compiled a report on the violence, intimidation and vote-rigging blamed on Mr. Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.

The observer group has called the election deeply flawed, and it said voters were not allowed to freely express their will at the polls.

Richard Bourne of the London-based Institute of Commonwealth Studies said in a British radio interview that he expects sanctions to be targeted against the Mugabe government, but not the people of Zimbabwe. "The people of Zimbabwe are suffering very seriously already and there are said to be a million refugees already and a lot of hunger. But I think that it is possible to distinguish between the government of Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe," Mr. Bourn said.

Separately, Amnesty International is calling for the Commonwealth to force the Zimbabwean government to disband militias, release more than 100 people it says are illegally detained, and stop other human rights abuses.

In another development, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told British radio he wants talks with the Mugabe government on holding new elections.

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