Africa: 'mediate with Mugabe'

The decision to name South African President Thabo Mbeki came at the end of a closed emergency meeting called by the Southern African Development Community to focus on the political and economic turmoil in Zimbabwe.

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The leaders decided "to promote dialogue of the parties in Zimbabwe. There is no replacement to that," said Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who chaired the meeting and who had flown to Zimbabwe for talks earlier this month.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attended the SADC meeting, but left immediately after without comment.

Mr Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba said earlier today that the solution to the country's turmoil was not to remove President Mugabe, but "to get (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair and his colleagues to remove the sanctions, which are not recognised by the United Nations".

Former colonial power Britain and other Western nations have imposed targeted sanctions, including asset freezes and a travel ban on Robert Mugabe and more than 100 of his top associates. They argue targeted sanctions do not hurt most Zimbabweans.

President Mugabe has been condemned for attacks on Zimbabwean dissidents and for overseeing a government accused of corruption and ruining the economy. His African neighbours have been pressed to take the lead in pushing for reform.

Reports of a brutal police crackdown on the political opposition in the southern African country drew renewed international attention to Zimbabwe's long-running political and economic crisis. Tanzania is one of three Southern African nations appointed by the SADC to try to address the political crisis in Zimbabwe.

The SADC meeting also addressed the violence in Congo, urging all armed groups to disarm or integrate into the national army. In the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, more than 100 people died in fighting that broke out last week between army forces and fighters loyal to a failed presidential candidate. Security forces regained control of Kinshasa on Friday.

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