Summit of African Leaders Opens with Zimbabwe's Mugabe in AttendanceBy VOA News
30 June 2008
The 11th African Union summit has opened in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe in attendance.
Mr. Mugabe's presence at the two-day summit opening Monday is expected to dominate the conversation among the leaders, although other issues are the focus of the meeting's agenda.
He traveled to the summit following a hastily-arranged inauguration, when he was sworn-in for another five-year term as president, despite winning an election that many international officials have dismissed as a sham.
Africa's top diplomats and politicians met in closed session for several hours Sunday and early Monday to discuss how to respond to Mr. Mugabe's challenge to democracy.
One of the questions facing the AU is whether to recognize him as Zimbabwe's legitimate leader.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement calling Zimbabwe's election "deeply flawed."
He also encouraged Mr. Mugabe and the opposition to negotiate an end to the violence in their country.
The statement says U.N. envoy Haile Menkerios will be at the AU summit, ready to help "in any way possible."
Tanzania's foreign minister refused comment on what the AU would do.
During his inauguration speech, President Mugabe called for "serious dialogue" with the opposition. But opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has denounced the election, calling it "an exercise in self-delusion."
The top U.S. diplomat on African affairs, Jendayi Frazier, spoke on the sidelines of the summit. She noted that African observer groups agreed that the Zimbabwe election failed to satisfy the standards of freedom and fairness.
The summit in Egypt is also expected to address the union's millennium development goals on water and sanitation.