Addis,Ababa — PRESIDENT Mugabe arrived here yesterday to attend the seventh Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa summit, which starts today.
He was met at Bole International Airport by Ethiopian Prime Minister Mr Meles Zenawi and inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Ethiopian Army.
Cde Mugabe is accompanied by the First Lady, Cde Grace Mugabe, the Minister of Transport and Communications, Cde Swithun Mombeshora, and senior government officials.
The Minister of Industry and International Trade, Cde Herbert Murerwa, and the secretary for that ministry Mr Stuart Comberbach, have been here since Monday for the ministers' meeting which precedes the heads of state and government summit.
At least 11 heads of state and government were expected to arrive for the summit by late yesterday.
They include Presidents Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Ismael Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, Pierre Buyoya of Burundi, and Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir of Sudan.
Also expected are Prime Ministers Anerood Jugnauth of Mauritius and Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini of Swaziland.
The summit is expected to launch the Comesa Fund which will help member states to implement zero tariffs under the regional grouping's Free Trade Area (FTA) and boost private sector investment in infrastructure.
Under the fund Zimbabwe will contribute US$1,3 million and will benefit from access to loans under the US$200 million General Fund to finance national projects.
Comesa leaders are also expected to discuss the implementation of the protocol on free movement of people, labour and service.
The summit will deliberate on concerns that only nine countries -Zimbabwe, Malawi, Djibouti, Mauritius, Sudan, Egypt, Kenya and Madagascar - have set up the Free Trade Area out of the 20 member states of the organisation.
The other 11 members are expected to join the Free Trade Area since the Comesa Fund helps them recoup the loss of revenue from participating in the FTA.
But the 11 are only expected to join the FTA by 2004.
The trade ministers meeting, which began on Monday recommended the approval of the Comesa Fund to the regional leaders.
They resolved that there was need to harmonise laws, rules and regulations on immigration to achieve free movement of people and goods.
It was also imperative to enhance national security and regional security and adequately equip border posts.
The ministers said the delay by other member states to ratify the FTA protocol impacted negatively on the launch of a Customs union.
Foreign ministers also held their meeting and reiterated the need for peace, security and stability to achieve integration and development.
Comesa groups Angola, Burundi, Comoros, the DRC, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.