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Regional summit on Zimbabwe

MAPUTO, Jan 14 – Key Southern African leaders will hold a special summit Thursday in Mozambique\’s capital Maputo to discuss the crisis in Madagascar and the power-sharing government in Zimbabwe, officials said.

The security organ of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), known as the Troika, will meet from 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Thursday, a Mozambican foreign ministry official told AFP.

The summit was announced just 24 hours before it was scheduled to start, but many regional leaders were already planning to be in Maputo on Thursday to attend the swearing-in of Mozambican President Armando Guebuza to his second term in office.

A senior Zimbabwe government official told AFP that President Robert Mugabe had already left Harare to attend the meeting.

"President Mugabe left this afternoon for Maputo to attend an extra-ordinary summit of SADC, which is expected to discuss the Zimbabwe situation and unfolding events in Madagascar," the official said in Harare, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Guebuza currently heads the Troika, which also includes Swaziland and Zambia.

Among the presidents expected at the summit were Zambia\’s Rupiah Banda, South Africa\’s Jacob Zuma, Malawi\’s Bingu wa Mutharika and the Democratic Republic of Congo\’s Joseph Kabila.

Last week SADC foreign ministers met in Maputo where they also discussed the political crises in Zimbabwe and Madagascar.

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The regional bloc has been due to review progress in Zimbabwe\’s unity government after a special summit in November broke a deadlock that threatened to sink the deal.

South African mediators have since held talks in Harare among the rival Zimbabwe parties to settle a slate of differences between Mugabe and his partner in the unity government, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai\’s spokesman James Maridadi said that he did not know about the summit and that the prime minister would not attend.

"The prime minister is currently on leave, and he is not going to the summit. We are not aware of it," Maridadi said.

It was not immediately clear if Madagascar\’s leaders would attend the meeting.

Disagreements between the island nation\’s four main political groups have scuttled repeated efforts to end the impasse, with de facto leader Andry Rajoelina trampling on previous deals with rivals to form a unity government.

The army-backed Rajoelina, who seized power in a coup in March 2009, last month cancelled the appointment of a prime minister agreed on in a power-sharing deal with his rivals and named a new one.

Discord over sharing government posts and drawing up an election timetable by the four political parties led by Rajoelina, Marc Ravalomana, the president he ousted, and two former leaders have also hobbled efforts to end the crisis.

International mediators meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa last week called for elections in Madagascar to end the prolonged political crisis. None of the island\’s political foes were represented at that meeting.

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