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Zimbabwe Threatens to Quit Commonwealth if Not Treated as Equal - 2003-11-28

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe says his country is prepared to quit the Commonwealth, if it is not treated as equal with other member countries. Zimbabwe has been suspended from the 54-member organization, and Mr. Mugabe has not been invited to the group's biennial summit in Abuja next month.

Mr. Mugabe said, if readmission into the Commonwealth means sacrificing Zimbabwe's sovereignty, then, "is time to say goodbye." He was speaking at the funeral of a former member of his government Friday.

Earlier this month, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the host of the Commonwealth summit, said Mr. Mugabe would not be invited to attend.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth for 12 months, after the group's observers of the March 2002 presidential elections reported that the poll was neither free nor fair.

President Obasanjo, in an attempt to bring Zimbabwe back into the Commonwealth fold, visited Harare earlier this month for separate talks with Mr. Mugabe and his leading opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai. Mr. Obasanjo later concluded that Zimbabwe has not done enough to earn an invitation.

But a member of Nigeria's diplomatic mission in Zimbabwe, who asked not to be named, told VOA an invitation to Mr. Mugabe to attend the summit is still a possibility.

A meeting of the Southern African Development Community countries, which are members of the Commonwealth, is set for Maseru, Lesotho, next week to discuss Zimbabwe's exclusion.