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Harare Visit by U.N. Secretary General Annan in Works

Although the government of Zimbabwe has dismissed a scathing United Nations report on the urban slum clearance campaign it has pursued since May, President Robert Mugabe has invited U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to Harare in what analysts see as an effort to soften perceptions that his government is under severe scrutiny.

Mugabe spokesman George Charamba was quoted by the state-controlled Herald newspaper as saying Mr. Annan has accepted the invitation. U.N. officials said that Mr. Annan has accepted in principle but that no date for the visit has been set.

U.N. sources said the report by special envoy Anna Tibaijuka, which called Harare’s demolition exercise “a disastrous venture,” could be tabled in the Security Council for discussion as soon as Tuesday.

For such a discussion to take place, however, there would have to be agreement among the five permanent members. The U.N. source said the United States, Britain, France and Russia support such a discussion, but that China is opposed.

Mr. Mugabe has just arrived in China amid speculation he is seeking a financial bailout package – and backup from Beijing in the Security Council.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to International Crisis Group Director for Southern Africa Peter Kagwanja for perspective.

Despite concern Mr. Mugabe might use a visit by Mr. Annan to blunt the impact of the U.N. report, Free Africa Foundation President George Ayittey tells reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he doesn’t see much benefit to the beleaguered Zimbabwean head of state from such a visit.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...