3 July 2008

Tanzania: Kikwete Back Home As Tsvangirai Rejects Talks

African Union chairman President Jakaya Kikwete arrived home yesterday from the 11th AU Summit, which was dominated by the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai rejected talks on a unity government as a way out of the crisis.

The two-day summit at the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh was originally scheduled to discuss how Africa could fully implement the Millennium Development Goals before the Zimbabwe impasse took centre stage.

African leaders discussed the acute shortage of water on the continent where nearly half of the population lack access to clean and safe drinking water.

State House director of communications Salva Rweyemamu said in a statement that the summit also discussed proposals for a single government in Africa.

Elsewhere, Mr Tsvangirai rejected talks on a unity government, saying President Robert Mugabe must first stop violence and accept him as the rightful election winner.

AU leaders have called for the two sides to negotiate to end the crisis after Mr Mugabe's re-election in a June 27 ballot that was boycotted by the opposition and dismissed by much of the world as a sham.

Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of the election because of attacks on his supporters. He had won a first round vote on March 29.

"Significantly the conditions prevailing in Zimbabwe are not conducive to negotiations. If dialogue is to be initiated, it is essential that Zanu-PF stops the violence, halts the persecution of MDC leaders and supporters," he told a news conference in Harare.

Mr Tsvangirai said talks had to be based on recognising only the first round vote, which he won. He said his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) should be the legitimate government after beating Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF in parallel parliamentary elections.

Mr Mugabe's officials earlier welcomed the call from African leaders for talks on a power-sharing government.

"The AU resolution is in conformity to what President Mugabe said at his inauguration, when he said we are prepared to talk in order to resolve our problems," Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told Reuters.

"We are committed to talk, not just with Tsvangirai but to other parties as well." Mr Ndlovu later dismissed Mr Tsvangirai's position on talks as grandstanding and said he was confident the two sides would soon be together at the bargaining table.

Mr Tsvangirai said talking to Mr Mugabe would be meaningless unless the African Union sent a permanent envoy to expand mediation efforts by South African President Thabo Mbeki, criticised for being too soft in his diplomacy with Mr Mugabe.

Despite the AU support for a power-sharing deal modelled on the one that ended post-election violence in Kenya earlier this year, disagreement over who should lead the government could prove an insurmountable obstacle.

Mr Mugabe, 84, was sworn in for a new five-year term on Sunday after election authorities announced he had won about 85 per cent of the vote in a run-off, which was condemned by monitors and much of world opinion as violent and unfair.

Zimbabwe 's once prosperous economy has collapsed, bringing the world's highest rate of hyper-inflation, food and fuel shortages and 80 per cent unemployment. Millions of Zimbabweans have fled to neighbouring countries.

Mr Mugabe has branded the MDC a puppet of former colonial power Britain and the United States and vowed to never let it rule Zimbabwe .

Western countries are pushing for UN sanctions on Zimbabwe 's leaders and a draft US resolution called for a UN travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe's inner circle. But some countries on the Security Council have shown little appetite for such measures, already imposed by Europe and the United States.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country has taken over the European Union presidency, said on Tuesday the EU would only accept a government led by Mr Tsvangirai. The European Commission repeated that line yesterday.

"Any transitional government must include Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister or head of government," Commission development spokesman John Clancy told a briefing in Brussels.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, however, told the South African Broadcasting Corp. that the outside world could not impose conditions for a solution to the impasse.

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