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African Union Recommends a Government of National Unity in Zimbabwe

Heads of state and government of the African Union concluded a summit Tuesday evening in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, with an exhortation to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to form a government of national unity.

But the government of Botswana, expressing what appeared to be a minority summit view, called for the suspension of Zimbabwe and President Robert Mugabe from the African Union over the conduct of elections in the country and political violence against the opposition.

Though Mr. Mugabe received a warm welcome at the summit Monday, African leaders came under intense international pressure to take action on Zimbabwe’s crisis. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he hoped AU leaders would “make it absolutely clear there has got to be change” in Zimbabwe, which he said needs a new government.

Deliberations at the summit over what to do about Zimbabwe were intertwined with diplomatic initiatives seeking a negotiated solution involving a national unity or transitional government, though the government and opposition both issued statements dismissing the approach.

From the U.S. State Department in Washington, deputy spokesman Tom Casey had urged movement to a negotiated resolution in Zimbabwe with assistance from the African Union.

But Mugabe spokesman George Charamba angrily dismissed proposals from the West, and Britain in particular, saying such nations have no right to judge the legitimacy of the election Friday that returned Mr. Mugabe to power.

The United States among other Western countries has called Mr. Mugabe's inauguration illegitimate, and Charamba had harsh words for such critics.

Charamba laughed off suggestions his summit colleagues might try to persuade Mr. Mugabe to accept a Kenya-style power sharing agreement with political rival Tsvangirai.

He lashed out at Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, saying his hands "drip with blood."

Odinga came to office under a power-sharing arrangement only after ethnically oriented violence claimed at least 1,500 lives after elections there.

Political analyst John Makumbe told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the African Union must take strong action against Harare, whose policies he said holding back the development of other African countries, especially in the sub-region.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe