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Zimbabwe's Downward Spiral 'Intolerable And Unsustainable' - Annan

In a tacit criticism of the Zimbabwean government of President Robert Mugabe, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has declared in a public address that the country's downward economic spiral is “intolerable and unsustainable.”

Annan made the remarks in the course of delivering the fifth annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg, where he had attended the celebrations of former South African President Nelson Mandela's 89th birthday.

"The ever downward spiral of Zimbabwe is both intolerable and unsustainable; we all have a stake in resolving the crisis," Annan told his audience.

Annan also called on African leaders to help resolve the Zimbabwean crisis, saying that “we all have a stake” in ending the stalemate between Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Annan last year scrubbed plans to visit Zimbabwe before stepping down from the helm of the international organization. Though Harare extended an invitation in 2005, it was by 2006 cool on receiving Annan, this amid speculation that one of his purposes was to ease out Mugabe and usher in a transitional government of national recovery.

After receiving the July 2005 report prepared by a U.N. special envoy on the impact of Harare's Operation Murambatsvina slum-clearance campaign that year, Annan called the massive demolition drive a "catastrophic injustice" against Zimbabwe's poorest.

The report said the operation deprived some 700,000 Zimbabweans of their homes or their livelihoods or both - the campaign also targeted informal street vendors.

Responding to Annan's remarks in Johannesburg, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Boniface Chidyausiku, told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Annan had no authority to comment on Zimbabwe.

Richard Bagudu, author of a new Annan biography, said the former secretary general held similar opinions while leading the U.N., but was unable to speak frankly.

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