MoU softens EU stance on Zimbabwe
Posted: Saturday, July 26, 2008

Herald Reporter-AFP.
July 26, 2008
The Herald

BORDEAUX. THE ongoing talks between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations have softened the European Union's stance on Zimbabwe and has now thrown its weight behind President Thabo Mbeki's mediation.

The EU solidly backed Pretoria's mediating role in Zimbabwe as the only way of ending the country's economic and political problems at the end of the landmark EU-South Africa summit yesterday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy – whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU – showered fulsome praise on President on his "bold and courageous" intervention.

"We wholeheartedly support the courageous mediation by President Mbeki and back the idea to give him more time," Sarkozy said at a joint news conference at the end of the first EU-South Africa summit, held in the picturesque French city of Bordeaux.

"Mbeki's mediation must be supported," he said, adding: "There is no other way possible now and everyone in Europe agrees on this."

The EU on Tuesday widened sanctions against Zimbabwe despite a deal brokered by Mbeki between President Mugabe and opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara on talks for a future government.

Brussels is hostile to President Mugabe while President Mbeki, on the other hand, is opposed to any attempt to arm-twist the Zimbabwean leader and to bow to any form of Western pressure.

Yesterday President Mbeki sought to emphasise that the positions on Zimbabwe were narrowing.

"All of us agreed that it is important that Zimbabwean political parties should move forward to reach agreement ... on the formation of an inclusive government and a common programme to take Zimbabwe forward.

"I think everybody in the world wants this to happen as a matter of urgency," he said. "I really sincerely appreciate the support expressed by President Sarkozy."

President Mbeki sidestepped a question on whether he was seeking a dignified exit for President Mugabe, whose status as an African liberation hero is still largely undimmed on the continent.

"They (the Zimbabweans) will have to take the decision about who retires when. It's not something that comes from the mediation," he said.

South Africa defended its approach on the Zimbabwean issue.

"Our view is that there has been a major step forward in the process of dialogue in Zimbabwe thanks to the tireless and behind-the-scenes efforts of President Mbeki," South African Foreign Ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa told AFP.

"We want all those parties who have a genuine desire for a resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe to give the current peace process a strong boost," Mamoepa added.

Mamoepa yesterday slammed Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga for speaking out on the Zimbabwean situation and insisting that President Mugabe release all political prisoners.

"We are not aware of the accreditation of Prime Minister Odinga as a mediator on the Zimbabwean question," Mamoepa said.

"Odinga is demanding that President Mugabe release all political prisoners and to host teleconferences, but in what capacity?" he added.

As the talks progress analysts and ordinary Zimbabweans have been predicting how the all- inclusive government would look like and how everybody considered key will be accommodated.

Some are suggesting that President Mugabe should appoint more than five non-constituency senators to accommodate those who were defeated in the March 29 elections.

In Zimbabwe, for one to be Government minister they have to be either an MP or senator.

Ironically, it was the opposition which proposed that the number of non-constituency MPs appointed by the President be reduced from 12 to five.

The opposition is now believed to be pushing for the President to appoint more than five senators.

This requires a constitutional amendment and Parliament will have to be called to sit and pass the necessary amendments before the extra senators can be appointed.

Analysts say this should not be a problem if the negotiating parties agree to this route since the two largest parties between them can easily muster the necessary majority.

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