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Kofi Annan To Visit Zimbabwe

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says he still plans to visit Zimbabwe to see the outcome of a slum clearance operation that displaced about 700,000 people. Mr. Annan's statement contradicts one by a government spokesperson, who says the invitation has been cancelled. George Charamba said last week that there was no longer any need for Annan to visit because the operation was followed by a “rehousing” program.

William Nara is director of interactive affairs in the office of the president. Speaking to VOA English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje, Nara denied reports that the invitation to Secretary General Annan was cancelled. “The invitation by the head of state Comrade Robert Mugabe to Dr. Annan still stands as extended last year during the occasion of the General Assembly.” But he continues to explain the purpose of the invitation, which he says was two-fold. “For him (Annan) to witness general developments in the country and for him also to use the occasion to verify what was going on in terms of the provision of housing. So to that extent, the safety issue of noticing what was made in the reports of (UN envoys) Tibaijuka and Egeland automatically fall off. But as secretary general of the United Nations, he is free to visit Zimbabwe. And as an African, he is more than free to visit any part of Africa.”

The Zimbabwean official reacted to the view of some analysts that if Mr. Annan went ahead and visited Zimbabwe, he may use the occasion to urge President Mugabe to step down, as a way of promoting national reconciliation. “To assume that President Mugabe was put into office by Kofi Annan or the United Nations is totally wrong and contrary to the realm of democracy. President Mugabe and his ruling party have continued to win elections. As long as ZANU-PF wins elections, you say there is no reconciliation. Totally no. We extended a hand of reconciliation to those who were defeated and they are the same people who continue to cause problems. It’s those people who need to be talked to and to accept that end of reconciliation.”

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