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Zimbabwe Government, Opposition Lobby Region's Leaders In Lusaka

Representatives of the Zimbabwean government and its opposition have stepped up lobbying in Lusaka, Zambia, amid the preliminaries of a Southern African Development Community summit likely to be dominated by debate on the Zimbabwe crisis.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa was on Lusaka’s Radio Phoenix Tuesday for two hours advancing Harare’s argument that Zimbabwe's economic crisis can be traced to Britain's alleged failure to fulfil a 1980 pledge to fund land redistribution.

Representatives of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai, meanwhile, told reporters that the opposition faction wants SADC to broaden its mediation effort by involving other senior regional officials.

Party Deputy President Thokozani Khupe said the formation still has confidence in Mr. Mbeki, but wants to see more progress in the negotiations.

Elsewhere, Human Rights Watch urged SADC to send monitors to Zimbabwe to discourage human rights abuses. The group is urging SADC and its members to keep pressuring Zimbabwe to respect freedom of association and assembly and to halt abusive or cruel treatment or torture by security forces or other state agents.

The Human Rights Watch report noted that "with presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for March, the early presence of human rights monitors would be an important step" towards an environment suitable for free and fair elections.

Zimbabwean human rights activist Wilbert Mandinde, in Zambia for the summit, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 that SADC must pay attention to reports of rights abuses, as Zimbabwe’s problems are spilling over borders.

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