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Commonwealth Suspends Zimbabwe For One Year - 2002-03-19

A Commonwealth task force has announced Zimbabwe's immediate, one-year suspension from the 54-country organization in the wake of this month's violence-marred presidential election.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced the decision (Tuesday) after meeting in London with the other two members of the task force -- Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. The decision means Zimbabwean leaders cannot attend any meetings of Commonwealth leaders for 12 months, at which time the task force will review its decision.

Also Tuesday, Switzerland announced it is freezing any assets Zimbabwean government officials may have there because of suspicions the ruling party manipulated the recent election.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told reporters in Harare he will only enter into talks with President Robert Mugabe under certain conditions, including the organization of a new presidential vote. The opposition leader demanded an end to all violence against opposition activists by ruling party militants.

International observers and Western countries say Mr. Mugabe stole this month's election amid massive fraud and intimidation of the opposition by his followers.

Zimbabwe's labor union federation, which supports Mr. Tsvangirai, has called for a three-day general strike, to begin Wednesday.