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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Said to Seek SADC Endorsement of Mkapa Mediation Role

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is expected to ask the Southern African Development Community to endorse his nomination of Tanzanian ex-president Benjamin Mkapa as mediator in proposed discussions with Britain.

SADC spokeswoman Mpho Kgosidintsi said a SADC summit was set for August 17 in Lesotho, but added that the agenda was still in the process of being drafted.

A Zimbabwean Foreign Affairs Ministry source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said intra-regional lobbying has begun, as Harare expects resistance from Botswana and Mozambique, which were believed to have wanted United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to pursue his earlier proposal to broker a crisis solution.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who had initially backed Annan, has apparently asked Mr. Mugabe to agree that Mkapa should work under SADC auspices.

Mkapa’s precise role has remained unclear. He has yet to publicly confirm his role in the talks with Britain proposed by Mr. Mugabe - and for which British officials have not shown great enthusiasm, commenting that Zimbabwe's acute economic crisis has not arisen from bilateral differences as Mr. Mugabe holds, but from Harare's policies.

Acting Information Minister Paul Mangwana said Mkapa volunteered to mediate, but a diplomatic source said President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania proposed his services.

Sources said Mkapa had met with Mr. Mugabe since taking up the assignment, later writing a letter to SADC criticizing its silence on the Zimbabwean crisis.

For perspective on the role SADC might play in the initiative, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to senior researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa.

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