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Summit Of Southern African Leaders Called To Examine Zimbabwe Crisis

The Southern African Development Community has called an emergency meeting of its members on Saturday to discuss the post-election crisis in Zimbabwe, where the electoral authority has withheld the results of the March 29 presidential election and the government and opposition are at loggerheads over a mooted runoff ballot.

From Gaborone, Botswana, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged the heads of state of the Southern African Development Community to "put their heads together" to resolve the crisis in Harare just as they intervened in March 2007 following a violent crackdown by the Zimbabwean government against its political opponents.

Tsvangirai was interviewed live from Gaborone by hosts Carole Gombakomba and Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change maintains that he won the presidential election with 50.3% of ballots. But the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission after issuing house and senate elections results has failed to release the presidential results, leading Tsvangirai's party to seek a court order forcing release.

President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front appears to be determined to set aside the first election round and force a runoff ballot.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, currently SADC chairman, issued a statement on Wednesday calling the summit to try to break "the current impasse as well as adopt a coordinated approach to the situation in that country". Sources in the Zimbabwean ruling party said chances are slim that Mr. Mugabe would attend the summit.

In South Africa, meanwhile, the president of the ruling African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, publicly criticized the delay in releasing the results. "I don't think it augurs very well" to keep the nation and international community in suspense," Zuma said.

MDC sources said Tsvangirai was expected to meet soon with South African President Thabo Mbeki – though South African officials said such a meeting was not scheduled as Mr. Mbeki was in India leading a delegation to discuss bilateral relations.

Tsvangirai met Wednesday with Botswanan President Seretse Khama and two of his predecessors, Festus Mogae and Ketumile Masire.

Director Neo Simutani of the Center for Policy Dialogue in Lusaka, Zambia, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the move by SADC was bold but should have come sooner after the Zimbabwean elections.

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