Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is catching flak from his inclusive government partners for his continued vehement refusal to recognize the National Transitional Authority in power in Libya and restore diplomatic relations with Tripoli.
Harare expelled Libyan Ambassador Taher Elmagrahi last year after he declared his loyalty to the rebel movement at home.
This week, Mr. Mugabe slammed the African Union Peace and Security Council at the recently ended summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for embracing the new leadership, calling the diplomatic move “unprocedural.”
Mr. Mugabe said the decision should have been made by the collective African heads of state, arguing that embracing the National Transitional Council as Libya’s legitimate government was a mistake.
Observers took the president’s statements to mean that he is still not prepared to reestablish diplomatic ties with Libya.
But the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai wants to re-establish ties immediately, according to party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora.
"The people of Libya made their choice and changed their government," said Mwonzora. "There is nothing that can be served with continuing who is long dead and who was rejected by his own people."
Nhlanhla Dube, spokesman for the MDC wing led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, said Harare as an AU member is bound to recognize the new Tripoli establishment.
"Libya is part of the African Union, Libya is in Africa, and there is certainly no reason why going forward we can't work towards having full diplomatic relations because the Libyan people are not at war with Zimbabwe," Dube said.
London-based political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga commented that the differences on Libya between the two parties reflect the ideological divide between them.
In other diplomatic news, Bulawayo Provincial Governor Cain Matema on Wednesday refused to receive a European Union delegation visiting the Matebeleland region, calling the mission a non-event and demanding that the EU remove targeted sanctions.
EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell'Ariccia headed the delegation which consisted of most of his in-country staff from Harare.
The incident comes shortly before EU officials are to review travel and financial sanctions on Mr. Mugabe, many members of his ZANU-PF, and related firms.
It follows a somewhat similar incident last month in which Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo barred five mayors – all members of the MDC formation of Mr. Tsvangirai – from traveling to the United States for a training program.
That was seen frustrating an initiative by US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray to normalize ties. Ambassador Dell'Ariccia told reporter Blessing Zulu that the current EU visit to Matabeleland aims to assess development and co-operation work.
ZANU-PF Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo said he supports Matema as his party sees no benefit in engaging the European Union. "The problem is that the EU continues to use sanctions to influence change and that is a very unfortunate situation," he said.
International relations expert Clifford Mashiri commented that ZANU-PF’s intransigence is forcing Western nations to harden their own stance on Zimbabwe.