Sunday, August 19, 2007
Mugabe, left, was received warmly at the summit of his southern African peers [AFP]
"The summit welcomed the progress and encouraged the parties to expedite the process of negotiations and conclude the work as soon as possible so that the next elections are held in an atmosphere of peace," it said in reference to presidential and parliamentary elections due to take place next year.
Mugabe wants to seek another term. Critics say state control of the media, widespread intimidation and the clampdown on the pro-democracy movement gives Mugabe's party an overwhelming advantage going into the poll.
Mugabe, who drew the biggest applause on the opening day of the summit on Thursday, was absent without explanation for the closing session.
A Zambian official familiar with the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the 83-year-old autocrat was in a defiant mood.
Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president, whose country took over the rotating chair of the 14-member organisation, earlier this year likened Zimbabwe to a "sinking Titanic."
But during the summit, he was more cautious and merely called on Zimbabweans to "maintain peace and stability" lest they move "further backwards."....."