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    Zimbabwe: Mugabe absent from Commonwealth talks
    Posted on Monday, September 23 @ 04:54:36 UTC
    Topic: Brains Missing
    Brains MissingBBC - Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, has decided to boycott talks about his country's suspension from the Commonwealth, apparently because he objected to the tone of his invitation.

    Mr Mugabe had, until the last minute, been expected to attend Monday's meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to review Zimbabwe's response to its exclusion from the organisation.

    But in a phone call to the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr Mugabe said he objected to the invitation letter from Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

    "Mugabe said the invitation gave the impression that he was going to be court-martialled in Abuja," a Nigerian official told Reuters news agency.

    The BBC's Dan Issacs in Abuja says the boycott is a major blow to the Commonwealth. More from BBC

    Zimbabwe's report: Diplomatic gaffe

    Herald Reporter

    PRESIDENT Mugabe was not invited to today's Commonwealth troika meeting in Abuja to discuss the issue of Zimbabwe, it emerged yesterday.

    Officials at the Commonwealth London headquarters confirmed yesterday that there was a "major diplomatic foul-up" in the manner the President was invited.

    "President Mugabe is not attending the meeting because the bottom line is that he was not invited," the officials said.

    The officials said the idea of having a meeting in Abuja was initially mooted when Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Mugabe met on the sidelines of the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa early this month.

    The two leaders held a one on one meeting on the morning of September 2, the day Cde Mugabe addressed the summit.

    The officials said the idea of having a meeting in Abuja was initially mooted when Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Mugabe met on the sidelines of the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa early this month.

    The two leaders held a one on one meeting on the morning of September 2, the day Cde Mugabe addressed the summit.

    According to the officials, President Mugabe left the hall where the summit proceedings were taking place just before Namibian President Sam Nujoma began his address to meet President Obasanjo.

    He returned to the hall near the end of British Prime Minister Tony Blairís speech.

    "It (the Abuja meeting) was mooted there and agreed in principle," the officials said.

    Nigerian government officials told The Herald yesterday that the idea of the meeting was mooted against the background of a cordial exchange.

    They described President Mugabe as having been very open to the idea and having insisted on that the troika would have to be prepared for "a big fight and to be told some home truths".

    The issue was expected to be finalised in New York where the two leaders and the South African President Thabo Mbeki attended the UN General Assembly.

    The issue of the invitation of President Mugabe was supposed to come up in New York following the splashing of the Abuja meeting by the South African media.

    However, The Herald could not establish whether that was done although diplomatic sources said it was expected that the official formal invitation would come from Nigeria as the host country.

    "But for reasons that are not clear, that did not happen," the sources said.

    It is understood that the Commonwealth secretary-general Mr Don McKinnon, who is a former Foreign Minister of New Zealand, is said to have advised the Nigerians that the invitation would have to come from the Australian Prime Minister Mr John Howard in his capacity as the chairman of the Commonwealth through the groupingís office.

    "But again that did not happen. Instead Mr Howard with the apparent connivance of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, put an unsigned invitation on the internet," the sources said.

    While Government officials confirmed having downloaded a copy of the unsigned invitation from the internet, they say that no invitation was passed on to the President because it would have been a breach of protocol to pass such a thing.

    Government sources described Mr Howardís unsigned invitation that was splashed on the internet as "arrogant, racist, undiplomatic, crude and rude".

    "Nobody expected the President to attend just because the so-called invitation was on the internet," said an irate Government official.

    Contacted for comment, the Minister of Information and Publicity Professor Jonathan Moyo confirmed that there had been no invitation.

    "No serious person expected us to be part of that kind of a circus. The whole thing stinks of an orchestrated media event designed to insult the President and demonise Zimbabwe at the behest of Britain with Australia playing the role of a cheer leader.

    ""John Howard should disabuse himself of the folly that he can treat Africans the same way he treats Aborigines," said Prof Moyo.

    A political analyst said: "Letís hope Nigeria and South Africa will use the meeting to reign in John Howard and that the white Commonwealth should treat the non-white members with respect and dignity."

    Prof Moyo had yesterday said the meeting would be "a monumental waste of time" if it failed to advance the spirit of the "real" Abuja that acknowledged the land issue as the core of the problems in Zimbabwe.

    The troika comprising Presidents Obasanjo and Mbeki and Prime Minister Howard suspended Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth for a year in March.

    Mr Howard arrived in Nigeria yesterday while it was not clear last night whether President Mbeki will attend the meeting.

    From: www.herald.co.zw

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