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South African, Nigerian Leaders to Meet Mugabe - 2002-03-18

The leaders of South Africa and Nigeria are in Zimbabwe for talks with President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on last week's disputed presidential election.

South African President Thabo Mbeki and his Nigerian counterpart Olusegun Obasanjo are expected to press Mr. Mugabe, who was sworn Sunday in for another term, to form a national unity government.

The opposition rejected the election results and many foreign observers criticized the way the balloting was conducted.

South Africa, Nigeria and Australia make up a Commonwealth advisory committee that will assess the situation and recommend possible sanctions against Zimbabwe. The three-member committee is to hold a meeting Tuesday in London.

Industrialized nations in the 54-member Commonwealth want Zimbabwe suspended from the group. However, some analysts say Nigeria and South Africa may oppose such a move.

Western nations, including a Commonwealth team of observers, and local Zimbabwean observers say the election was so deeply flawed it did not reflect the will of the people.

In his inaugural address Sunday, Mr. Mugabe said Zimbabwe's people voted freely and fairly to reject imperialism. He accused the West, particularly former colonial power Britain, of backing Mr. Tsvangirai and his opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Mr. Mugabe, 78, has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain 22 years ago. Mr. Mugabe said he will create more jobs and speed up his controversial and often violent land-reform program, which includes the seizure of white-owned farmland for redistribution to poor landless blacks.

He took a conciliatory tone in parts of his speech, calling for Zimbabweans to unite and work for a better Zimbabwe, no matter who they voted for.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.