JOHANNESBURG, July 2 – South African President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday rejected an EU position that it will only accept a Zimbabwean government led by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
"The result that comes out of that process of dialogue must be a result that is agreed by the Zimbabweans," said Mbeki on SA FM radio after an African Union summit in Egypt attended by Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe.
"And certainly, the African continent has not made any prescriptions about the outcomes of what Zimbabweans must negotiate among themselves."
Mbeki added: "That surely must mean that when the Zimbabweans say that we have all met, discussed and negotiated and this is what we have agreed to take our country, Zimbabwe forward."
Their two-day conclave agreed "to encourage President Robert Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai to initiate dialogue with a view to promoting peace, stability".
Mugabe was present when the resolution was adopted, and raised no objections.
The European Union said Tuesday that it will only accept a Zimbabwe government led by Tsvangirai, who overtook Mugabe — the country’s leader since independence — in the first round of presidential poll held in March.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said as Europe prepared to step up sanctions against Mugabe that the European Union will only accept a government led by the opposition leader.
The European Union, on the first day of France’s rotating presidency, took a tough stance on Mugabe, with Kouchner telling France 2 public television that Brussels "will not accept a government other than one led by Mr Tsvangirai".
Tsvangirai, who failed to win an absolute majority in that poll, withdrew from the second round of voting, held last Friday, saying that violence had made a fair vote impossible.
Mugabe, 84, who was the sole candidate in that exercise, was declared winner, and was hastily sworn in for another five-year term.
The opposition claims more than 80 of its supporters had been killed in a campaign of intimidation ahead of the vote and thousands injured.
With South Africa the most influentual country in southern Africa, the regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC) has appointed Mbeki mediator in the crisis.
"And that is why they came to the conclusion that the only way forward out of this was to get Zimbabweans, to encourage Zimbabweans to engage and indeed produce an inclusive government.
"Everybody is convinced that it is only via the instrument of an inclusive government that includes all of these political parties of Zimbabwe within a framework that they themselves would agree…this is the only way that you can take Zimbabwe forward," said Mbeki.
African Union Commission President Jean Ping called Tuesday on the international community, which has led criticism of the election, not to interfere too much in the Zimbabwe crisis.