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African Leaders Push for Talks Between Zimbabwe's Factions - 2003-05-06


The three African presidents who visited Zimbabwe on Monday agreed that the solution to the country's deepening crisis is talks between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The effort now is to get the talks started despite the government's conditions.

Analysts say the presidents of Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa have recognized the depth of the crisis in Zimbabwe, and that led them to take a tough line with President Robert Mugabe.

Political analyst and spokesman for the Zimbabwe Crisis Group, Andrew Nongogo, said the three presidents made it clear to Mr. Mugabe that their support for him is no longer reliable, unless he gets down to negotiating a solution.

Mr. Nongogo says the implications of the Monday meeting are far-reaching, and he expects negotiations between the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition MDC will begin soon.

He suggested that an independent facilitator might be brought in to mediate the talks, which he said should begin as soon as possible because of Zimbabwe's deepening economic and political crisis.

Other analysts express similar views, but ask not to be quoted.

The Monday meetings in Harare opened a new chapter in the Zimbabwe crisis. The visiting African leaders called for dialogue in meetings with President Mugabe and opposition leaders.

The opposition agreed to unconditional talks, but Mr. Mugabe says he will not meet the MDC unless it drops its legal challenge to his election victory last year.

Most political analysts believe the MDC will not do that at present but might be prepared to once a framework is in place for a transitional authority leading to fresh elections. Mr. Mugabe has rejected any such plan.

The basic positions have not changed. But analysts say what has changed is that senior African leaders have accepted that Mr. Mugabe must act to try to end the country's economic and political crisis, and not just sit back and blame foreigners for inflicting the problems upon him.