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Germany

Germany Backs Second Mediator in Zimbabwe Crisis

Germany has said it supports a call by Zimbabwe's opposition for the African Union to name another mediator in talks over the country's political crisis. The mediation follows a widely condemned one-candidate election.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, welcomes his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki in Harare

Mbeki (right) has been criticized for being too soft on friend Mugabe (left)

Germany said on Monday, June 30, it hoped South Africa, whose President Thabo Mbeki is heading the talks, would also back the nomination of a second mediator.

"We will in the next days and weeks be watching very closely how things in southern Africa develop," said German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger.

Mbeki was called on to steer talks with the Zimbabwean government after 84-year-old incumbent President Robert Mugabe won a landslide re-election last week. The single-candidate poll, boycotted by opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai due to violent attacks on his supporters, has been panned a farce by the UN and the much of the international community.

The EU on Monday denounced the vote as an "exercise in power-grabbing."

Zimbabwe opposition appeals to African Union

Robert Mugabe

Mugabe, freshly sworn into office once again, attended the African Union summit in Egypt

Mbeki, who has close personal ties to Mugabe, has been widely criticized for his quiet diplomacy toward the Zimbabwean regime. Mugabe has been accused of widespread human rights abuses and of driving his country's economy into the ground.

The Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Monday called on African Union leaders, currently at a summit in Egypt, to name a second mediator to join in the talks in a move to sideline Mbeki's much criticized efforts.

"We want an AU envoy who is a permanent mediator between the MDC and the ZANU-PF to assist President Mbeki," said MDC spokesman George Sibotshiwe.

The situation in Zimbabwe has topped the agenda at the Egypt summit. African leaders criticized the vote, urging Mugabe's ZANU-PF party to form a unity government with the MDC. They are reportedly writing up possible power-sharing plans for the two parties.

"Africa must fully shoulder its responsibility and do everything in its power to help the Zimbabwe parties work together so as to overcome current challenges," AU Commission chief Jean Ping said at the opening of the summit.

The Union's 53 members have yet to reach consensus on what action to take.

Europe open to Zimbabwe sanctions

The German foreign ministry spokesman added on Monday that the situation in Zimbabwe was being closely followed in the EU.

Morgan Tsvangirai

Tsvangirai pulled out of the presidential race, leaving just one candidate

"The French presidency of the EU, which is taking up its duties tomorrow (Tuesday) has taken up the question and we will discuss together what further steps we can take," he said.

While US President George W. Bush has already called on the United Nations for an arms embargo against Zimbabwe, the EU has said it would not rule out the possibility of sanctions against the southern African country.

Past sanctions have only resulted in fuelling the determination of the country's elite to maintain power.

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