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Top African Union Officials Due In Harare Shortly For Talks On Mediation Format

Top African Union officials will travel to Harare shortly seeking a breakthrough in the crisis in Zimbabwe which has also put a spotlight on the continental organization.

Diplomatic sources said A.U. chairman and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and A.U. Commission Chairman Jean Ping will engage ZANU-PF and opposition officials in the coming days and will also confer with South African President Thabo Mbeki during that swing.

A.U. sources said the African leadership is seriously considering opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s request that the mediation process be broadened, and that a time frame be set for agreement. The Southern African Development Community is divided with Botswana and Zambia questioning Mr. Mbeki's ability to achieve a resolution to the festering crisis.

Nigeria, Swaziland, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Botswana and Kenya are threatening to cut ties with the government of President Robert Mugabe. Italy on Monday became the first European nation to sever diplomatic ties with Zimbabwe, recalling Ambassador Mario Bologna. Fifteen other EU countries are expected to follow suit, reports said.

Canada announced additional sanctions against Harare, barring Zimbabwean-registered aircraft from landing in or flying over its territory, and hinting that it might sever diplomatic ties. Britain and U.S are pushing the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he met with African and European diplomats Thursday to brief them on his preference for a transitional government rather than a government of national unity.

The key difference would be that a transitional government would be slated to give way to a new round of elections after two years, whereas a government of national unity would continue for the full five-year term of Mr. Mugabe's disputed presidential office.

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