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Commonwealth Chief Says Harare Not Responding Yet To Overtures

Zimbabwe will not be joining the Commonwealth of Nations countries assembling in Kampala, Uganda next month - it pulled out of the organization in 2003 under heavy pressure from Britain and others over the conduct of its 2002 presidential election.

But Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon told VOA Wednesday that he is certain Zimbabwe will rejoin the Commonwealth - but the ball is in Harare’s court.

Zimbabwe quit the Commonwealth, a grouping of mostly former British colonies, after it was suspended amid allegations that the 2002 presidential election was rigged. Of the 53 leaders expected at the Kampala meeting, 18 are from Africa.

Commonwealth head since 1999, McKinnon voiced satisfaction that South African President Thabo Mbeki is reporting progress in the talks he is mediating between the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

McKinnon urged President Robert Mugabe to “listen very carefully to the very serious concerns raised by leaders” of other Southern African countries whose economies are suffering due to the spillover from Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.

McKinnon said the Commonwealth Secretariat, along with national leaders, had been engaging Zimbabwe on the issue of rejoining the world body, but with little success.

Executive Director David Chimhini of the Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Harare's decision to stay aloof from the Commonwealth involves a certain cost to the country.

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