Mugabe defies calls for his ouster as African summit meets (Roundup)

July 2nd, 2008 - 1:04 am ICT by IANS  

Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt), July 1 (DPA) Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, at the centre of controversy over his disputed re-election, Tuesday challenged calls for his ouster, with his spokesman at the African Union summit saying that the West could “hang a thousand times”. Speaking to reporters as the two-day summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was drawing to a close, the presidential spokesman George Charamba said the West had no “basis, no claim on Zimbabwean politics at all”.

“They can go hang a thousand times,” Charamba said.

The octogenarian Mugabe has claimed victory against opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai in the election that was marred by widespread violence and condemned as unfair by African monitors.

His spokesman rejected calls for Mugabe to step down as part of a settlement to the simmering crisis.

“With only five days in office, you expect him to retire?” Charmaba said in reference to the time since Mugabe won the run-off election.

He also dismissed a South African initiative for the formation of a transitional government of national unity in Zimbabwe as happened in Kenya earlier this year after a disputed election and subsequent violence.

“Kenya is Kenya. Zimbabwe is Zimbabwe. We have our own history of evolving dialogue resolving political impasses the Zimbabwean way. The Zimbabwean way, not the Kenya way. Not at all,” the spokesman said.

Those remarks prompted Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to toughen its stance, saying Mugabe’s one-man election June 27 had killed any chance of a negotiated agreement.

“The sham and catalyptic election 27 June 2008 totally and completely exterminated any prospects of a negotiated settlement,” MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti said in a statement, contrasting with remarks Monday by the party that it was “committed” to talks.

Mugabe had been reportedly hassled by journalists on his arrival at a conference hall where the summit being held. A British reporter accused Mugabe of “stealing elections” in Zimbabwe, according to correspondents on the scene.

“When will the British stop colonizing us? I am the president whether you like it or not,” Mugabe was quoted as telling the reporter.

The British journalist was reportedly assaulted by Mugabe’s guards.

African leaders, who have been holding a closed meeting to seek consensus over the crisis, are cautious on the Zimbabwe issue, but some have not shied away from direct condemnation and going as far as calling for sanctions.

Sierra-Leone President Ernest Koroma urged African leaders to condemn Mugabe when they conclude the summit.

Koroma supports the South African initiative.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga was even more forthcoming when he called for the African Union to suspend Mugabe until he allows free elections.

However, the bulk of African leaders adopted a cautious approach and rejected calls for sanctions.

Gabon President Omar Bongo has expressed support for Mugabe, saying he should be accepted as Zimbabwe’s elected leader.

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