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Southern African Leaders Discuss Madagascar, Zimbabwe at Summit

Southern African leaders have rejected plans by the leader of Madagascar to unilaterally organize national elections in March. And the leaders examined the situation in Zimbabwe at a summit Thursday evening in Maputo.

The leaders expressed concern over Madagascar in a statement issued following a special summit in Maputo of the security organ of the Southern African Development Community.

The statement said SADC "rejects any attempt to use democratic means, institutions and processes to," in its words, "legitimize governments that come to power through unconstitutional means."

It referred to the transfer of power last March in Madagascar that SADC has labeled a coup d'etat.

Current leader Andry Rajoelina took power, backed by the military, after then-President Marc Ravalomana was forced to resign and leave the country.

SADC has been mediating negotiations between the two leaders and two former Malagasy presidents, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, which had led to a power sharing agreement in August.

But Rajoelina last month rejected the accord and appointed a retired military officer to organize elections in March.

The SADC leaders are to report to the African Union summit next month in Ethiopia.

The southern African leaders also urged the parties to the unity government in Zimbabwe to fully implement a power-sharing agreement signed more than one year ago.

The accord brought President Robert Mugabe and his former rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, into a government that is to organize national elections by next year.

But the accord has been hindered by disputes over Mr. Mugabe's appointment of allies as attorney-general and central bank governor.

SADC's mediator on Zimbabwe, South African President Jacob Zuma, suggested on South African national radio that lesser issues be put on hold so that the process can move forward.

"We could have the issues that probably are very difficult to agree [upon] but still say if we cannot [agree] can we park them and proceed? Are they so fundamental that we cannot move without [them]?" he asked.

Other disputes center on the appointment of provincial governors, international sanctions against senior leaders of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and ZANU-PF objections to international radio broadcasts to Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean leaders are due to resume negotiations on the outstanding issues next week. Popular consultations on a new constitution leading to the elections are also to begin.