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Zimbabwe Opposition Makes Case Against Mugabe On AU Summit Margins

Zimbabwean opposition officials mounted a diplomatic offensive this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ahead of an African Union summit hoping to persuade AU leaders to bring pressure to bear on President Robert Mugabe to politically compromise in the spirit of the South African-mediated crisis talks many now say have failed.

Vice President Thokozani Khupe of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai said representatives of the formation are briefing AU delegations on what the opposition describes as a "unilateral" decision by Mr. Mugabe to call elections March 29 over strong opposition objections.

The opposition and civil society leaders urged that the elections not be held until well after the conclusion of the talks mediated by South African President Thabo MBeki - who went to Harare earlier this month to personally urge Mr. Mugabe to compromise on the issue of the election date and the introduction of a new constitution. But Mr. Mugabe refused to budge and shortly announced the March election date.

African NGOs this past weekend called on AU heads of state - who will meet in summit on Thursday - to call on President Mugabe to ensure that the elections are free and fair and to uphold human rights in his country.

Khupe said she and other MDC officials expect to have a meeting some time this week with Ghanaian President John Kufuor, who currently holds the AU chair.

Khupe told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that she and her MDC colleagues have received a more sympathetic hearing from officials of AU member countries than at previous summits of the pan-African organization.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...