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08.11.2008 International

Mugabe seeks new Obama relations

By BBC

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe says he is ready to mend relations with the United States following Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election.

He congratulated Mr Obama and said he hoped to work with him to tackle the challenges facing developing countries.

The US imposed sanctions on Mr Mugabe in 2002, accusing him of rigging elections and violating human rights.

Mr Mugabe's overture comes ahead of regional weekend talks in South Africa on Zimbabwe's political stalemate.

But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has said renewed violence has ended hopes of negotiating an end to the country political crisis.

It blamed Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party for a "new orgy of brutality" across Zimbabwe.

"In short, Zanu-PF killed the dialogue despite the hopes, patience and expectations of the people of Zimbabwe," the MDC said in a statement on Thursday.

Mr Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a deal to share power in September, following disputed elections and widespread violence earlier this year.

'Tough stance'

"The government and people of Zimbabwe join you in celebrating this event in the history of the USA," Mr Mugabe said in a statement printed in Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper.

"I take this opportunity to assure you... that the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe remains ready to engage your government in any desirable endeavour to improve bilateral relations."

Zimbabwe is facing severe food shortages and rampant inflation, which Mr Mugabe blames on a Western conspiracy to remove him from power.

His critics, including the US government accuse him of destroying what was one of Africa's most developed economies.

Under the September deal, Mr Tsvangirai is to become prime minister in the new government, tasked with ending the country's economic crisis.

But the two sides have not been able to agree on how to share cabinet posts.

South Africa's government has said it will take a tough stance at the summit.

"A solution must be found to enable the people of Zimbabwe and the region, to close this sad chapter," AFP news agency quotes South Africa's ruling party leader Jacob Zuma as saying.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the mediator of the power-sharing deal, has been criticised for his approach and policy of quiet diplomacy.

Militia

Mr Tsvangirai's MDC says Zanu-PF is trying to grab all the most important ministries.

The key sticking point at the latest round of talks was control of the home affairs ministry, which is responsible for the police.

On Thursday, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told AFP that Mr Tsvangirai would still attend Sunday's summit of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), but that the recent violence had shown Mr Mugabe's lack of sincerity.

An earlier MDC statement said a Zanu-PF militia group had attacked at least 25 MDC supporters in the capital, Harare, last week.

Three days later, state security forces raided homes belonging to MDC supporters and arrested nine people, including a two-year-old child, it added.

There has been no immediate comment from the Zimbabwean authorities on the allegations.

Source: BBC

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