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African Leaders' Meeting on Zimbabwe Ends Without Progress

Three African leaders meeting to try to defuse the crisis in Zimbabwe have failed to make significant progress toward ending the country's political and economic problems.

The presidents of Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa had crucial meetings with Mr. Mugabe and the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change on Monday.

This was the first time South African President Thabo Mbeki had met MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

At the end of the meeting with the three presidents, the MDC said it would agree to dialogue with Mr. Mugabe's government any time, anywhere, without any pre-conditions.

In response, Mr. Mugabe told the media he would only meet with the MDC, if Mr. Tsvangirai recognized him as the legal leader of Zimbabwe, and dropped his high court challenge to last year's disputed presidential elections.

Mr. Tsvangirai and many official observer groups say the ruling Zanu P-F cheated to secure Mr. Mugabe's re-election. Mr. Tsvangirai and his legal team say they are waiting for a court date to challenge Mr. Mugabe's victory.

Well-placed sources say Mr. Mugabe's early retirement was not discussed at the closed-door meetings in Zimbabwe Monday.

Although the meeting ended without any real progress, political analysts say the MDC made a good impression on the three presidents. In addition, the three leaders appeared to finally understand that there could be no solution to the Zimbabwe crisis, without the full participation of the MDC.

Until now, Nigeria and South Africa in particular, have supported Mr. Mugabe's policies, including his controversial land reform program.

Most economists say the economic crisis started after Mr. Mugabe ordered his supporters to seize productive white-owned farms for redistribution to the elite and some landless people.