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Zimbabwe Opposition Targets UN, Commonwealth Chiefs At AU Summit

The faction of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change headed by Morgan Tsvangirai will engage the the United Nations and the Commonwealth chiefs at the African Union summit under way in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, aiming to bring international pressure on Harare not to delay the next presidential election.

Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party has proposed to amend the constitution to push off the presidential election due next year until 2010, saying its "harmonization" with the parliamentary ballot due then would save money and improve balloting. Opponents accuse the ruling party of scheming to extend President Robert Mugabe's term.

The UN said Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will arrive in Ethiopia Monday to confer with AU leaders on conflicts in Sudan, Chad, Somalia and Cote d’Ivoire. The UN chief will also meet unnamed African leaders on the summit sidelines, but a UN spokesman said it was not clear if such sidebars would include a session with Mr. Mugabe.

McKinnon, visiting Kenya and Tanzania en route to Addis Ababa, has expressed his concern with the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe. But he has also voiced optimism that Harare could eventually be welcomed back into the Commonwealth. Suspended from the organization in 2002, Zimbabwe resigned its membership in 2003.

The Kenyan media quoted McKinnon as saying he was saddened by the situation in Zimbabwe and hoped that Harare would “uphold standards of human rights.”

MDC Tsvangirai faction deputy secretary for international relations Grace Kwinjeh and the grouping's secretary for policy and research, Sekai Holland, will deliver a message from Tsvangirai calling for a 2008 presidential vote under a rewritten constitution.

Zimbabwean nongovernmental organizations are also lobbying in Addis Ababa.

Tsvangirai faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the MDC founding president's message is intended to focus international attention on the gravity of the crisis in Zimbabwe.

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