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Daily Archives: August 18, 2008

Zimbabwe deal targeted as summit enters final day

by Justine Gerardy*

Southern African leaders were gathering yesterday for the final day of a summit overshadowed by Zimbabwe's crisis, amid a push for a deal between the country's rivals before the meeting wraps up.
The leaders were expected to meet behind closed doors to discuss Zimbabwe in detail, one minister attending the proceedings said on condition of anonymity.
Discussions were to include a report from South African President Thabo Mbeki, the regionally appointed mediator for Zimbabwe, and from a troika of nations responsible for security in the region, according to the minister.
Leaders from the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) could then decide whether to take action over the Zimbabwe crisis, the minister added.
At the summit's opening on Saturday, Mbeki raised the possibility of a settlement before the close of the meeting.
SADC's troika on security issues also agreed late Friday that a deal to resolve the crisis should be signed during the summit, a foreign minister who attended the meeting said. The body includes Angola, Tanzania and Swaziland.
But major sticking points to a settlement were said to remain, and it was unclear whether they could be overcome before summit leaders left Johannesburg.
"It's better not to have a deal than to have a bad deal," Zimbabwe opposition chief Morgan Tsvangirai told The New York Times in an interview published yesterday in which he insisted on being given real power in any settlement.
Zimbabwe's crisis overshadowed much of the summit's first day, with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's participation controversial after his re-election in a June poll widely condemned as a sham.
Zambian Foreign Minister Kabinga Pande, speaking at the summit, harshly criticised Mugabe's re-election, calling it a "blot on the culture of democracy".
Pande was speaking on behalf of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, who remains hospitalised after suffering a stroke in June. Mwanawasa has previously said it was "scandalous for SADC to remain silent on Zimbabwe".
Hundreds protested in a march by regional trade unions, handing over a memorandum to SADC's executive secretary saying Mugabe "cannot claim any legitimacy to rule."
A South African official close to the negotiations said remaining sticking points included whether Mugabe would retain the right to hire and fire ministers and how long a transitional government would remain in place.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change wants a clause stating that if one of the parties pulls out of the government of national unity, elections would be held within 90 days, according to the official.
Power-sharing talks stalled when three days of negotiations adjourned on Tuesday after Tsvangirai said he needed more time to consider a deal agreed by Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara, who heads a smaller opposition faction.
Mbeki has met with the three leaders individually this weekend, said his spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga, who declined to give details of the discussions.
Tsvangirai and Mutambara were among the guests invited to a summit dinner on Saturday night.
The opposition chief boycotted the June run-off election despite finishing ahead of Mugabe in the March first round of the vote, citing violence against his supporters that had killed dozens and injured thousands.
Tsvangirai believes he has the right to the lion's share of power based on his first-round total, while the ruling ZANU-PF party argues Mugabe must be recognised as president in any deal, as he won the June election.




UN to remember victims of deadly Baghdad bombing

The United Nations will commemorate tomorrow the fifth anniversary of the bombing of its office in Baghdad that killed 22 staffers, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon is to interrupt a two-week vacation to attend the ceremony, which will pay tribute to the victims with a reading of their names and observance of a minute of silence.
A wreath-laying will also be held at the memorial plaque in the lobby of the General Assembly building.
And there will be a performance of a 15-minute classical music piece by US composer Steve Heitzeg, called "Song without Borders," in memory of UN staff members who have perished in the line of duty.
Since 1948, when the world body established its first peacekeeping operation in the Middle East — the UN Truce Supervision Organisation, 709 peacekeepers have been killed in the line of duty, according to UN statistics.
The suicide bombing that targeted the UN headquarters in Baghdad on August 19, 2003 killed Vieira de Mello of Brazil, a veteran UN troubleshooter, and 21 other staffers. Another 150 people were injured.
Immediately following the bombing, the UN dramatically scaled down its presence in the country.
The Baghdad bombing raised serious concerns over the UN's ability to protect its personnel serving in peacekeeping missions in hotspots around the world.
Last December, two suicide blasts targeting UN offices in Algiers killed 18 UN staffers, three of them foreign nationals.
The bombings were claimed by an offshoot of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.
In response, the UN staff union demanded an independent probe into whether adequate security measures were in place at UN installations around the world.
Ban then assembled a six-member panel headed by former troubleshooter Lakhdar Brahimi to investigate.
Last June, the Brahimi panel issued a report in which it said there was "ample evidence that several (UN) staff members up and down the hierarchy may have failed to respond adequately to the Algiers attacks, both before and after the tragedy."
The findings led to the resignation of the UN security chief, Sir David Veness.
The report also said that "the explicit targeting of the UN by terrorist groups represents a sea-change among the threats" facing the world body now and in the foreseeable future.
On August 7, The UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the 767-strong UN mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and expressed its readiness to review the mandate "in 12 months or sooner, if requested by the government of Iraq."