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Bush Praises SAF President's Work for Democracy in Zimbabwe - 2003-07-09

President Bush says he believes South African President Thabo Mbeki is an "honest broker" in Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis. President Bush says President Mbeki is the "point-man" on Zimbabwe and the United States supports his efforts to bring-about a negotiated settlement between the government and opposition leaders who say the ruling party stole the last election.

"We share the same objective," said Mr. Bush. "The president is the person most involved. He represents a mighty country in the neighborhood, because of his position and his responsibility is working the issue, and I don't have any intention of second-guessing his tactics. We share the same outcome."

President Bush says he encouraged President Mbeki to continue to work for the "return of democracy" in Zimbabwe and believes the South African leader is working hard to make progress. President Mbeki told President Bush that Zimbabwe's ruling party and the opposition MDC are working to resolve their differences.

"I did tell the president that indeed the government of ZANU-PF and the MDC are indeed discussing," said Mr. Mbeki. "They are engaged in discussions on all of the matters that would be relevant to the resolution of these political and economic problems."

Zimbabwe's opposition leader says that is not true.

Morgan Tsvangirai says President Mbeki's contention that political dialogue is under way in Zimbabwe is "patently false and mischievous" and is "manifestly partisan" in an effort to "buy time" for President Mugabe and delay efforts by potentially "genuine brokers" such as the United States.

Mr. Tsvangirai, who lost the last election, says there have been no talks between the two sides in more than a year.

Asked to respond to Mr. Tsvangirai's allegations, a senior Bush administration official says the president stands-by his assertion that President Mbeki's "quite diplomacy" will bring results.