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Mbeki Says Zimbabwe Leaders Must Solve Own Crisis - 2003-06-11


The president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, says his government will not interfere in the political situation in Zimbabwe. The South African president made these remarks to journalists in Geneva after speaking at the annual conference of the International Labor Organization.

Mr. Mbeki told reporters the problems of Zimbabwe cannot be solved by South Africa or by anybody else outside Zimbabwe. He said the solution to the crisis in that country lies in the hands of the Zimbabwean leadership.

Mr. Mbeki said he and Nigeria's president, Olusegun Obasanjo, have tried to persuade President Robert Mugabe's ruling party and the opposition leaders to settle their differences peacefully.

He says, "We have gone back...this year to say the same thing, that they really have to get together to solve the problems of Zimbabwe. And they agreed and began a discussion, which in the first instance sought to determine a common agenda to which they all agreed. There have been the actions last week-the strike, the threatened demonstrations and so forth. I do not know what impact that will have on that process. But, they have agreed to talk. So, we are interested to assist the people of Zimbabwe to solve their problems."

On the subject of world poverty, the topic of his address to the International Labor Organization earlier in the day, the South African president told reporters global action is needed to eradicate global poverty.

He says, "There is clearly a big disaster that is boiling away there, everywhere in the world. Not only the impoverishment of people, but the stark contrasts between those who are rich and those who are poor. It is a kind of act of provocation to those who are poor to do something."

To close the gap between rich and poor, President Mbeki said rich countries should be urged to cancel the debts of the world's poorest countries. He said the burden of paying this debt is preventing many governments from improving the lives of their people.

To illustrate his point, Mr. Mbeki said, every year the countries of sub-Saharan Africa pay out 14-and-one-half-billion dollars to service their debts. This, he noted, is four times what these countries generally spend on public health each year.