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South African President Says Talks With Both Sides Needed in Zimbabwe


South Africa's president, under increasing pressure both at home and abroad to take a tougher stance on the post-election crisis in Zimbabwe, said Wednesday the only way for mediators to break the impasse is to continue talking with both the government and the opposition. VOA's Margaret Besheer has more from U.N. headquarters in New York, where president Thabo Mbeki spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of African Union and U.N. Security Council members.

Mr. Mbeki said South Africa has been dealing with the question of Zimbabwe for some years, not just since the March 29 election, and that they have always said the solution to Zimbabwe lies in the hands of the Zimbabwean people. "Therefore, in our engagement with the situation we need to talk continuously with both the ruling party and the opposition. Because it is them that has to agree about their country to say where do we go," he said.

Mr. Mbeki also denied press reports that he had refused to call Zimbabwe's problem a "crisis". "I've heard that story about me saying there is no crisis in Zimbabwe, but I don't know where this story came from. I never said any such thing," he said.

African Union and Security Council member states met at the U.N. on Wednesday to discuss enhancing cooperation in the fields of peace and security, but at times the theme was overshadowed by the situation in Zimbabwe.

The United States, Britain and France expressed their growing concern about the failure of Zimbabwe's election commission to release the results of the March 29 presidential election.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had the harshest criticism, saying no one believes that Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe won the vote.

"No one thinks having seen the results at polling stations that President Mugabe has won this election. A stolen election would not be a democratic election at all. As the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] has said, the credibility of the democratic process depends on there being a legitimate government," he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeated his call for the speedy release of election results and said the international community would continue "to watch and wait for decisive action."

But the situation in Zimbabwe was conspicuously absent from the remarks of most African delegates.

South Africa, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, has resisted the idea of taking up the matter in the council, because it says it is being dealt with by the Southern African Development Community.