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Mbeki: Zimbabwe election stalemate not a crisis

Zimbabwe's election stalemate is not a crisis, South African President Thabo Mbeki said on Saturday.
/ Source: Reuters

Zimbabwe's election stalemate is not a crisis and its electoral commission must be given time to release the results of a presidential poll held two weeks ago, South African President Thabo Mbeki said on Saturday.

Mbeki held an hour-long meeting with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, hours before regional leaders meet in Zambia to discuss the crisis.

The Harare talks were the first between Mugabe and his powerful neighbor since Zimbabwe's elections on March 29. Mbeki has been mediating between Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) since last year.

"I wouldn't describe that as a crisis. It's a normal electoral process in Zimbabwe. We have to wait for ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) to release (the results)," Mbeki told reporters after the meeting.

Mugabe will not attend Saturday's Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Lusaka, called by Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa to help end the impasse over Zimbabwe's disputed elections and prevent the crisis from turning violent.

Mugabe, 84, has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980. He said on Saturday he was not snubbing the summit but had other business to attend to.

"He (Mbeki) is going to the summit, I'm not. Because three people have already gone, I've already appointed to go on our behalf. We're very good friends, very good brothers. But sometimes we also have other business that holds us back," Mugabe told reporters.

The result of the presidential election has not yet been published, 14 days after the vote took place.

The MDC won a parliamentary election held at the same time and claims victory in the presidential poll. It has gone to court to try to force officials to release the results.

MDC leader Tsvangirai has been invited to the Lusaka summit to explain his stance to the regional leaders.