Rice seeks African insight to help end Zim crisis

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke on Friday with African leaders and former United Nations chief Kofi Annan for their insight into how to end Zimbabwe’s presidential election crisis, her spokesperson said.

Rice spoke to Botswana President Ian Khama, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete about how they could help promote a solution, according to State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack.

Rice and her African envoy, Jendayi Frazer, decided “to get a sense from leaders in the region who really have some deep insights into the situation and how it might go forward, as to what the situation is, how they saw it, and how they were thinking about [how] it might move forward,” McCormack told reporters.

It was also important for Rice to talk to Annan, “who plays an important role in the international system, but particularly on issues related to Africa”, he added.

But the spokesperson did not say why Rice did not speak with South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was in Harare for intensive talks with veteran Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe.

“I don’t have any particular reason,” McCormack said.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which won control of Parliament and whose leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won a first-round victory against Mugabe in polls on March 29, has called for Mbeki to be axed as a mediator over his softly-softly approach towards the Zimbabwean leader, who has held on to power since 1980.

Instead, McCormack stressed broader regional and international efforts to solve the problem.

Though Zimbabwe’s opposition parties will have to reach an understanding about how to proceed, “it’s going to need the support and encouragement of neighbouring countries” as well as international players, he added.

As the Zimbabwean and South African leaders held talks in Harare, a coalition of doctors said there had been a dramatic escalation in attacks in rural areas by Mugabe supporters.

The main labour federation said its two top leaders had been arrested over speeches made to workers at a May Day rally.

Tsvangirai, meanwhile, was to announce on Saturday whether he would contest a run-off election against Mugabe, party officials said.

Tsvangirai, who has spent most of his time since the first round of voting on March 29 in neighbouring South Africa, was to hold a press conference in Pretoria, said a spokesperson for the MDC.

“He will be making a definitive statement over whether he will be taking part in a run-off and will also be outlining a course of action based on that decision,” the spokesperson added.—AFP

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