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Mugabe Gets Warm Welcome At AU Summit

  • VOA News

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has received a warm welcome from his peers at the African Union summit, despite calls for the AU to reject Mr. Mugabe's re-election.

Mr. Mugabe walked into the main conference hall today flanked by the summit host, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who holds the rotating AU presidency.

The United States, Britain, and other countries have denounced Friday's presidential run-off in Zimbabwe as a sham, and three African observer teams, including that of the AU, have said the poll was badly marred by violence.

But African leaders avoided direct criticism of Mr. Mugabe today (Monday) as the summit got underway in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Shiekh.

In remarks to the summit's opening session, the Tanzanian president spoke only of "challenges" in Zimbabwe, while AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping said Africa must do "everything in its power" to help Zimbabwe resolve its political conflict.

A dissenting voice came from Nairobi, where Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the AU should suspend Mr. Mugabe until a fair election is held.

Mr. Mugabe was declared the winner of the election Sunday, and immediately sworn in to a sixth term in office. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai dropped out of the race last week because of violence against his supporters. His Movement for Democratic Change party says pro-Mugabe militant killed dozens and injured
thousands of MDC supporters in the run-up to the vote.

Zimbabwe was not scheduled to be the focus of the two-day African Union summit, but the run-off controversy has dominated the conversation among the leaders.

African diplomats and politicians met in closed session for several hours Sunday and early Monday to discuss how to respond to Mr. Mugabe's challenge to democracy.

Several African countries are known to be pressing behind the scenes for a strong statement condemning the run-off. Other countries, including South Africa, are calling for President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party to open talks with the opposition to form a transitional government.

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