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SADC Summit Delays Decision on Zimbabwe Land Reform

Southern African leaders have put off confronting Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe for his refusal to abide by a regional court's ruling that rejected controversial land reforms in favor of a group of white farmers.

The tribunal of the Southern African Development Community wrapped up a two-day summit in Namibia's capital, Windhoek, Tuesday. It gave itself six months to review the stand-off, effectively delaying any decision until the next summit in 2011.

The SADC tribunal ruled in 2008 that 78 white Zimbabwean farmers could keep their land, saying they were unfairly targeted because of their race. Mr. Mugabe has refused to respect the ruling even though Harare signed the treaty that created the court, which has no power to enforce its decrees except through summit decisions.

More than 4,000 white-owned commercial farms have been seized by supporters of President Mugabe since 2000. The seizures were part of a politically charged land reform program that was supposed to re-allocate the farms to landless blacks.

The president said the program was aimed at correcting colonial-era injustices. However, critics say much of the land was given to ruling party supporters with little farming experience, and that the new farmers were not given the equipment, seeds or fertilizer to keep the farms productive.

The seizures set off a steep economic decline from which Zimbabwe is still recovering. Mr. Mugabe blames the country's economic crisis on Western sanctions and interference led by former colonial power Britain.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.