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US: Negotiated Solution the Only Way Forward in Zimbabwe

The United States says a political solution negotiated by the main parties in Zimbabwe is the only way forward for that country, after its disputed presidential runoff election. U.S. officials hope the African Union, now holding a summit in Egypt, can be a catalyst for an accord. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

U.S. officials have not been specific about what they think a political peace in Zimbabwe should look like. But they say there is real no alternative to a negotiated solution, given the near-universal rejection of President Robert Mugabe's nominal re-election.

The Bush administration sent Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer to Egypt, where she is having talks about Zimbabwe with African leaders on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.

In a talk with reporters, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said the United States wants Mr. Mugabe's African colleagues to push him to do the right thing and accept a political settlement that allows Zimbabwe to, as he put it, come out of darkness of the election crisis.

"The situation in Zimbabwe is a difficult one, and is one in which the results of this sham election are not going to be seen as legitimate," he said. "So I think the only way forward at this point is for the ZANU-PF or Mugabe to agree to enter into a process of negotiations with SADC and the AU and the U.N. to achieve a political resolution. Certainly we are looking to the AU to do their part in this."

Casey said he did not think the circumstances of last week's run-off election, in which opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai was driven from the race by political violence, have killed chances for a negotiated settlement.

He said Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will have to work together to get a solution, but suggested the opposition ought to have the lead role given its acknowledged victory in first-round voting in March:

"What is clear to us, and I think what is clear to everyone in the international community, is that Mr. Tsvangirai won the first round of elections," he added. "And it is clear that the results of those elections, even as ratified by the Zimbabwean electoral commission produced a majority for the opposition in the Zimbabwean parliament. Certainly those are facts, and those facts need to be reflected in whatever political solution is ultimately arranged."

The MDC victory in the March 29 parliament election marked the first time any party other than Mr. Mugabe's has controlled a branch of government in the country's 28-year history.

Though Mr. Mugabe sounded a conciliatory note in his inaugural speech Sunday, his spokesman at the A.U. summit has rejected calls for a Kenya-style power-sharing agreement with the opposition.