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Zimbabwe: AU, UN set to monitor talks
Posted: Saturday, July 19, 2008

AFP-Herald Reporter.
July 19, 2008
The Herald

South African President Thabo Mbeki yesterday invited the African Union and the United Nations to join a new "reference group" with Sadc that will liaise on his efforts to mediate a solution to Zimbabwe's problems, a top aide said.

President Mbeki, however, remains fully in charge of the mediation process as mandated by Sadc and the AU, but the group can monitor progress and give him its views.

Speaking after President Mbeki met AU Commission chief Mr Jean Ping and UN envoy Mr Haile Menkerios in Pretoria, South African Local Government Minister Mr Sydney Mufamadi said the new group would support the Mr Mbeki in his mission to mediate between the ruling Zanu-PF and MDC in Harare on behalf of the 14-nation Sadc regional bloc.

"The special representantive of Sadc (Angolan Deputy Foreign Minister George Chikoti), the AU and the UN were briefed by President Mbeki and he invited them to constitute a reference group with the mediator on an ongoing basis," said Mr Mufamadi, who is President Mbeki's right-hand man in the mediation effort.

"They will appoint people who will be based at the venue country. They will get briefings on a regular basis from the facilitator."

President Mbeki, who was appointed by Sadc a year ago to mediate in Zimbabwe, met Mr Ping and Mr Menkerios behind closed doors, a spokesman in the president's office said.

"I can confirm there is a meeting. It is in Pretoria at the presidential guesthouse," Thabang Chiloane told AFP.

South African Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was to give an update on her leader's mediation efforts at yesterday's meeting of Sadc foreign ministers in Durban, with the South African government insistent that a resolution to the Zimbabwe issue remains the sole preserve of Sadc.

"Our view has always been, and I am stressing it, we are being diverted by a fake argument about the expansion of the Sadc facilitation," Deputy Foreign Minister Mr Aziz Pahad told reporters earlier this week.

Yesterday's meeting between President Mbeki and the AU and UN officials is expected to pave the way for the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding setting the agenda for dialogue between Zanu-PF and the two MDC factions.

MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday made a last-minute decision to withhold his signature from the MoU.

Tsvangirai told The Star newspaper of South Africa on Thursday that he was awaiting the outcome of yesterday's meeting between President Mbeki and Mr Ping before he could sign the MoU. – AFP-Herald Reporter.

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