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UN Chief Ban To Consult Southern African Leaders On Solving Zimbabwe Crisis

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that he would consult Southern African regional leaders beginning with South African President Thabo Mbeki to see how the U.N. could help resolve the Zimbabwean crisis.

Sources said President Robert Mugabe told President Mbeki Thursday that his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party would soon write to Pretoria to confirm its commitment to talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change which Mr. Mbeki has been mediating since March at the behest of regional leaders.

United Nations sources said Mr. Ban had rejected Mr. Mugabe’s contention that U.N. assistance was not necessary as the matter was in the hands of the Southern African Development Community, a 14-member regional organization.

Mr. Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba confirmed to the state-controlled Herald newspaper that Mr. Ban planned to meet regional leaders.

U.N. spokesman Yves Sokorobi said Mr. Ban also asked Mr. Mugabe to show greater leadership in resolving the crisis in his country.

Feeling the heat in New York, Mr. Mugabe and his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced the formation of a“coalition for peace” in response to critics. Zimbabwean Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said the idea came up when the two leaders held bilateral talks Monday on the assembly sidelines.

Research Director Brian Rapftopolous of the Solidarity Peace Trust in South Africa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the U.N. had acknowledged the key role SADC could play in resolving the crisis.

In his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Mugabe lashed out at the U.S. and Britain for what he charged was a campaign to effect regime change in Zimbabwe. Mr. Mugabe denounced Western "bully" tactics towards African countries, and said U.S. President George Bush was in no position to lecture him on human rights.

Responding to Mr. Mugabe's comments, the opposition faction headed by Morgan Tsvangirai said the president had nothing new to say in his U.N. speech.

Faction officials said that, as in the past, they expected Mr. Mugabe to label Western powers as bullies and accuse them of controlling the resources of poor nations.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Eliphas Mukonoweshuro of the Tsvangirai MDC faction told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Mugabe’s speeches are like an old currency – overvalued but of little use.

Correspondent Carole Gombakomba reported from U.N. headquarters in New York that despite Mr. Mugabe's jeremiad against the Western powers, Southern African leaders on the whole seemed to avoid addressing the Zimbabwean crisis.

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