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S. Africa's Mbeki, Under Fire Over Zimbabwe, Endorsed By Regional Peers

Heads of state of the Southern African Development Community have asked South African President Thabo Mbeki to continue as mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis despite generally mounting criticism of his performance and a request by both branches of the Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change that he be replaced.

Mr. Mbeki’s role came up for discussion by the SADC leaders over the weekend on the margins of a development summit in the island nation of Mauritius.

Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam said the SADC heads of state expressed "complete faith" in Mr. Mbeki. "We have renewed our confidence in him by asking him to continue the work of mediation and find a solution to the situation in Zimbabwe."

The Zimbabwean opposition has long felt that Mr. Mbeki fell short of impartiality in his attempts at mediation in the crisis over the years, and his statement April 12 in Harare on his way to another SADC summit in Lusaka, Zambia, after meeting with President Robert Mugabe, that "there is no crisis" in Zimbabwe, was the last straw.

That statement also galvanized Mr. Mbeki's critics at home in South Africa, where his ruling African National Congress party is calling for a tougher stance with Harare.

ANC President Jacob Zuma, leading a ruling-party delegation to Germany, Britain and France, said Mr. Mugabe's government is undermining Zimbabwe's constitution.

Zuma was expected to meet Wednesday in London With British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has been prominent in stoking international outrage at the delay or more than three weeks in releasing the results of the March 29 presidential election.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband meanwhile accused Mr. Mugabe of trying to steal the parliamentary elections, in which official results showed the combined MDC claiming a majority in the lower house, through fraudulent recounts.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon continues to lobby African leaders to address the Zimbabwe crisis more energetically, most recently on the sidelines of a trade and development conference under way this week in Ghana. Reuters reported that Ban met with privately with Tsvangirai for about half an hour on Monday in Accra.

Ban spokeswoman Michel Montas told journalists New York that Tsvangirai “appealed for an intervention by the African Union and the United Nations" as he "feels there is no progress" despite two rounds of SADC discussions in recent weeks.

She said Ban had again called on Zimbabwean authorities to release the results of the presidential election, and intended to consult further with the president of the African Union, currently President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania.

South African-based political analyst Hermann Hanekom told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Mbeki’s mediation has been a disaster.

Johannesburg-based political analyst Nickson Nyikadzino said SADC must have more say in Mr. Mbeki's mediation approach rather than writing him a blank check.

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