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With Zimbabwe In Comesa Chair, Trade Group Opposes Bashir Indictment

A summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa concluded Monday in the Zimbabwean resort town of Victoria Falls issuing a communiqué urging the United Nations to suspend an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, in attendance.

The Comesa leaders “expressed concern (at) the international criminal court indictment against (Bashir) and endorsed the position of the African Union Peace and Security Council for the United Nations to suspend the indictment,” the Comesa communiqué said.

Sudan is one of Comesa's 19 member nations.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe assumed the Comesa chairmanship at the summit. The Zimbabwean government said earlier that it had no duty to enforce the warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, as it was not party to the ICC treaty.

The Comesa declaration came as Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai concluded talks with top officials in the Netherlands and headed for Washington in a diplomatic initiative intended to re-engage with the international community.

Zimbabwean Industry and Commerce Minister Welchman Ncube, who is also secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, reporter Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the summit had not voiced support for Bashir but merely urged continued dialogue in Sudan.

summit also adopted less controversial resolutions promoting regional integration, launching a customs union making it easier for firms to do business regionally and approving measures promoting the free movement of individuals in the region, Ncube said.

A media controversy marred the summit as security personnel and Comesa secretariat staff barred four Zimbabwean journalists from covering the event despite their presentation of a High Court order saying they did not need to obtain credentials from the Media and Information Commission because it has been superseded by a new body.

The Zimbabwe Media Commission has yet to be constituted, however.

Journalists Stanley Gama, Valentine Maponga, Stanley Kwenda and Jealousy Mawarire showed the court order to officials at the summit but were refused access. Other journalists who had failed to obtain MIC credentials as instructed by the information ministry were also barred.

The Zimbabwe branch of the Media Institute of Southern Africa said it would seek contempt of court charges against the security agents and Comesa officials.

MISA-Zimbabwe Director Takura Zhangazha told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his group is concerned at the apparent disregard for the rule of law.

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