African summit urged to work for Zimbabwe solution (Lead)

June 30th, 2008 - 11:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt), June 30 (DPA) Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe faced his critics at the African Union summit Monday and came under pressure from the UN and African leaders to negotiate a settlement with his political rival. Mugabe arrived to the summit held in Egypt’s Red Sea resort Sharm el-Sheikh a day after he was sworn in for a sixth term following a violence- and intimidation-marred vote that many world leaders called illegitimate.

African parliamentary monitors said the election was neither free nor fair.

Monitors from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) concluded in a statement that the “election did not represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe”.

SADC, which has been mediating between Mugabe and opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, is expected to present a proposal to the summit for a power-sharing arrangement similar to the power-sharing agreement reached in Kenya earlier this year.

In a statement issued in the Zimbabwean capital Harare, observers from the African Union said the vote fell short of the standards set by the 53-nation union.

At the summit, Mugabe watched the UN deputy secretary-general, Asha-Rose Migiro, urge African leaders in her opening speech to negotiate a political settlement for the crisis.

“This is a moment of truth for regional leaders,” Migiro said adding that it was regrettable that the second round of uncontested presidential elections had gone ahead despite concerns over violence.

The African Union’s Commissioner Jean Ping called for African leaders to do all they could to resolve the conflict through dialogue.

That call for dialogue was echoed in South Africa where the foreign ministry urged Mugabe and Tsvangirai to “enter into negotiations, which will lead to the formation of a transitional government that can extricate Zimbabwe from its current political challenges”.

In a meeting ahead of the summit, African foreign ministers stopped short of criticising in a draft resolution the election of Mugabe but decried violence and urged for a dialogue between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

There has been no consensus among members of the African Union over how to handle the crisis, although the organisation has a rule not to accept leaders who have not been democratically elected.

But it is highly unlikely that the summit will put the rule into effect.

Although Zimbabwe was not scheduled to be the focus of the summit, it has dominated discussions.

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