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Wednesday, 02 July 2008

Tsvangirai wants Ping on board

The MDC leader says he will negotiate - if he can choose the mediator

Morgan Tsvangirai, embattled leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has called on Jean Ping of Gabon, Chairman of the African Union (AU), to take over the proposed negotiations between himself and Robert Mugabe.

The MDC boss says he will change his mind about negotiating with Mugabe and be willing to have talks about a possible government of national unity, if - and only if - Ping agrees to partner South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki as mediator.

Mbeki has come under increasing pressure internationally in recent weeks, and has been accused of being too soft with Mugabe, ignoring the Zanu-PF violence tactics, and shielding Mugabe from criticism from other African states.

In an exclusive interview at his Strathaven home in Harare, Morgan Tsvangirai told me he thought the task of chairing negotiations in Zimbabwe was "too heavy for the troubled Mbeki."

"Mbeki has his own troubles, and expecting him to find a lasting solution to the Zimbabwean crisis on his own is demanding too much of him," he said.

"I believe that Mr. Ping, a respectable man in his own right, can bring on board ideas that can help us find the solution we require as a nation."

Ping, 65, is Gabon's deputy prime minister and foreign minister. He is the son of a Chinese trader and a Gabonese mother, and has had a long and successful career as a diplomat. He was elected Chairman of the AU earlier this year.

Tsvangirai also said he was concerned that the resolution on Zimbabwe adopted by the AU appeared to turn a blind eye to Mugabe's lack of legitimacy as president, following the June 27 run-off.

He pointed out that government-inspired violence is on-going across the country. "Since the June 27 sham election, nine MDC supporters have been murdered, and hundreds more beaten and forced to leave their homes," he claimed.

"In Manicaland alone, since the weekend, five hundred MDC supporters and their families have been forced to flee, and are now seeking refuge at the party's headquarters in Mutare. Once again, the MDC calls for peace in our country."

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