Europe divisions over the vexed question of whether Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe should be invited to the European Union-African Union Summit in December in Lisbon deepened Friday as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, visiting South Africa, told reporters that "we're inviting all A.U. countries" to the summit.
Ms. Merkel said each country should decide for itself who will represent it. "We want this summit to open a new chapter in relations between the two continents," she said.
Her statement appeared to further isolate British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who recently declared that he would boycott the summit if Mr. Mugabe showed up.
However, Ms. Merkel urged South African President Thabo Mbeki to toughen his stance on Zimbabwe, describing the situation in that country as “disastrous.”
Elsewhere, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete told the Financial Times newspaper in an interview conducted in Paris and published in the FT's Friday editions, that the West should step back and let African diplomats solve the Zimbabwe crisis.
Pledging to "stand by the people of Zimbabwe, including President Mugabe," he warned that "condemning and insulting" Mugabe would only render him more impervious to appeals for democratic elections and economic reform.
Co-Director Jennifer Cooke of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the country had become a sore point in African-Western relations.