The Herald (Harare)

3 July 2009

Zimbabwe: President Meets Top U.S. Official

Sirte — PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday met United States Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs Mr Johnnie Carson and Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo on the sidelines of the 13th Ordinary Session of the African Union General Assembly here.

The meeting with Mr Carson was the first time in several years that a senior member of the US administration has met President Mugabe.

Sources who attended the meeting said the President had a frank discussion with Mr Carson who requested the meeting, and was briefed on the process that led to the formation of the inclusive Government, its current state and the working relations between the three parties involved.

President Mugabe, the sources said, told Mr Carson that the Government was working well.

The meeting comes in the wake of recent attempts by some in the West to trash the inclusive Government by claiming that it was failing to meet set "benchmarks" even though all the parties that signed the Global Political Agreement have given the arrangement a clean bill of health and pledged their commitment to resolving any problems arising from the implementation of the agreement among themselves.

During Prime Minister Tsvangirai's recent tour of Western capitals, the "benchmarks" were cited as an excuse to maintain the illegal sanctions regime on Zimbabwe and to deny the country development support.

Mr Carson, a career African-American diplomat, served as US ambassador to Zimbabwe between 1995 and 1997, and ended his tenure just before the bilateral dispute over land with Britain flared up.

There were no details of the President's meeting with his Equatorial Guinea counterpart.

Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea enjoy cordial relations and Zimbabwe's security forces were instrumental in apprehending a planeload of mercenaries who were on their way to Malabo, the E. Guinea capital, to try to unseat Mr Nguema's government.

The summit, being held under the theme "Investing in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security", enters its third and final day today with the leaders expected to come up with a common position on agriculture and a solid framework for food security.

AU Commissioner for Agricultural Develop-ment Ms Rhoda Peace has stressed the need to integrate the market for agricultural produce on the continent in light of unfair agricultural practices employed by Western nations that see African farmers failing to compete with their Western counterparts on the international market.

She also urged the leaders to work to convert the continent's annual US$33 billion food importation bill into investment in agriculture.

The leaders are also expected to pronounce themselves firmly on the fragile peace and security situation plaguing various African countries, among them Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Somalia. Also expected in the final communiqué is a strong African rebuke of the ICC arrest warrant issued against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who is in attendance here.

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