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Nigerian, South African, Australian Leaders Discuss Sanctions Against Zimbabwe - 2002-03-19

The leaders of South Africa, Nigeria and Australia meet in London Tuesday to discuss possible Commonwealth sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The 54-member Commonwealth has assigned Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Australian Prime Minister John Howard to decide on appropriate action against Zimbabwe. The government of the southern African nation is accused of rigging last week's election to ensure victory for President Robert Mugabe.

Monday, Mr. Mbeki and Mr. Obasanjo held talks in Harare with President Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. No details about the outcome of those talks have been released.

Also, Amnesty International is urging the Commonwealth to help end what it calls a culture of citizens' rights violations in Zimbabwe.

The London-based human rights group says the Commonwealth should press Zimbabwe's government to immediately disband state-sponsored militias, release more than 100 people Amnesty says are detained illegally, reform the police and repeal laws that curtail freedom of expression and assembly.

Amnesty has called on the leaders of South Africa, Nigeria and Australia to help achieve those goals in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's main trade union federation has called a three-day general strike to begin Wednesday. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said the strike is to defend the rights of workers and to protest harassment of workers in the wake of the presidential elections.

In another development, Zimbabwe police have announced the arrest of four people in connection with the murder of a white farmer Monday. The Commercial Farmers Union had said suspected ruling party militants shot and killed the man near the town of Norton, west of the capital, Harare. The victim was the 10th white farmer killed since militants began forcibly occupying white-owned farms two years ago.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.