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UN Chief Annan Pressed To Re-Engage On Zimbabwe Crisis

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has come under pressure to reconsider his recent decision to step aside as a possible broker for a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis to leave a clear field to Tanzanian ex-president Benjamin Mkapa.

Though Annan has said he wants to give Mkapa a chance to mediate at the request of President Robert Mugabe, diplomatic sources say U.N. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari could be called on to help advance the mediation process.

Gambari, the U.N.’s top political officer, received the backing of the United States, Britain, Denmark and Japan last year when they recommended he visit Harare to address Zimbabwean government resistance to U.N. humanitarian relief efforts following the 2005 slum-clearance drive known as Operation Murambatsvina.

UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe told journalists in New York Tuesday that she was positive the U.N. would have contact with Mkapa, but she stressed that he is not a U.N. mediator. Prospects for mediation by Mkapa between Harare and London have dimmed, as they already differ on the agenda for such talks. President Mugabe has framed the issue as unfinished post-colonial business with Britain, saying the crisis stems from U.K. sanctions imposed in response to Zimbabwean land reform. But Britain has already responded that Harare's problems are of its own making.

First Secretary for Political and Public Diplomacy Gillian Dare of the British embassy in Harare said that Zimbabwe’s crisis was mounting not because of a bilateral dispute, but because of “bad policy”. Harare insists that Great Britain imposed sanctions as a response to Harare’s seizure of land from white farmers of British origin.

For perspective on how the U.N. might re-engage Harare, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to with Brian Kagoro, a Zimbabwean political analyst and human rights lawyer who is based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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