Foreign ministers of the African Union who gathered in Arusha, Tanzania, this week to examine the post-election crisis in Zimbabwe on Wednesday urged all participants in a looming presidential runoff to ensure that it is ?free, transparent and nonviolent.?
Issued from the AU?s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the statement called on the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change of first-round frontrunner Morgan Tsvangirai to ?respect the will of the people? once the runoff called by electoral authorities has been held.
Elsewhere, high-level delegates from the Southern African Development Community held talks with President Mugabe and officials of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on Wednesday, then headed for Lusaka, Zambia, for discussions with President Levy Mwanawasa, currently chairman of the Southern African regional grouping.
The SADC delegation was then expected to head to Pretoria for consultations with South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been SADC's mediator in the crisis since March 2007, and Tsvangirai, currently operating from Johannesburg.
From London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged the AU and SADC to press harder on Harare to solve the crisis. Sources said the SADC team expressed concern at reports of widespread violence in rural areas and urged President Mugabe to ensure there is tranquility ahead of a second-round presidential ballot.
Senior Researcher James Muzondidya of the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the AU statement and SADC shuttle diplomacy looked like constructive developments.