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[Published: Thursday April 10 2008]

Mugabe pulls out of African leaderssummit

Harare , 11 April-(ANA)-President Robert Mugabewill not attend a crucial summit of southern African leaders aimed at resolving Zimbabwe'spolitical turmoil, state radio has reported..

Officials had indicated that Mr Mugabe would go to tomorrows meeting of the14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), hosted by LevyMwanawasa, the Zambian President who has criticised the Zimbabwean strongman inthe past.

But faced with the prospect of SADC leaders calling on him to release thedelayed results of the presidential election on March 29, Mr Mugabe announcedthat he would be staying at home.

We didnt call for that summit, it was called by SADC, Bright Matonga, theDeputy Information Minister, said. This summit was done without priorconsultation with the Government of Zimbabwe.

Mr Mugabe's non-attendance will sparkfears that he is planning to disengage further from the democratic process.

Police in Hararetoday banned all political rallies. "We see no reason for rallies since wehave had elections," Wayne Bvudzijena, a police spokesman said.

Human rights groups and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), theopposition party headed by Morgan Tsvangirai, have already accused Mr Mugabe ofunleashing a campaign of systematic violence after the elections.

The electoral commission has already confirmed that the MDC displaced MrMugabe's Zanu (PF) in simultaneous parliamentary elections and Mr Tsvangiraisays he won the presidential poll too.

The MDC has called on southern African leaders to force Mr Mugabe to stepdown before the violence worsens. The lives of all pro-democracy actors arenot safe, Tendai Biti, the MDC secretary-general, said. (ANA)

FA/ANA/11 April 2008---

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