Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon has added his voice to those calling for Portugal, now holding the presidency of the European Union, to invite Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to the Europe Union-Africa summit set for December.
The New Zealander told Reuters on Tuesday that Mr. Mugabe’s presence in Lisbon would be useful “for the dialogue to go on,” and that it would be a "bigger problem” if African leaders boycotted the summit because Mr. Mugabe was excluded.
A planned 2003 European-African summit was scuttled over the question.
In backing President Mugabe's inclusion, McKinnon has come 180 degrees - he stood in opposition to Mr. Mugabe’s attendance of a meeting of Commonwealth heads of state in Nigeria in 2003. Zimbabwe resigned from the Commonwealth in 2003 after being suspended on allegations of rigging the 2002 presidential elections.
Roger Bate, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele that he sees several reasons why McKinnon might have changed his position at this time.
Director Elizabeth Sidiropoulos of the South African Institute of International Affairs said that while European hardliners like Great Britain want to exclude Mugabe, there are many who see larger stakes at the summit including a strategic pact.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...