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Mugabe not invited to Commonwealth summit-Obasanjo

26th November 2003

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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has not been invited to the Commonwealth summit due to be held in Nigeria next month, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said yesterday.

"He will not have an invitation," Obasanjo told reporters in the gardens of his farm in the southwestern Nigerian town of Otta.

Obasanjo said that he expected 52 other leaders of the Commonwealth, a global association of mainly former British colonies, to attend the meeting, which opens on December 5 in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

But Mugabe and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf will not be attending as their nations are suspended from the Commonwealth's ruling councils.

Zimbabwe's suspension came after Mugabe's March 2002 reelection in polls which the opposition and many in the international community rejected as deeply flawed and marred by violence.

The Commonwealth suspended Pakistan's membership after Musharraf seized power in an army coup and toppled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's elected government in October 1999.

Britain, Australia and Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon have insisted that Mugabe should not be invited to the Abuja summit, but Obasanjo, as host, had the final say over invitations.

After talks last week in Harare with Mugabe, Obasanjo did not rule out the possibility of inviting his Zimbabwean counterpart to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), despite fierce opposition, mainly from white Commonwealth countries.

"I am consulting," the Nigerian leader said then, when asked whether Zimbabwe would attend.

Mugabe, for his part, gave the impression he was preparing to pack his bags.

"We look forward to attending the Abuja CHOGM," he said, standing next to Obasanjo.

He told state media that Zimbabwe had no case to answer and should be allowed to attend the Abuja talks.

"As far as we are concerned, and even as we were placed under sanctions which expired in March ... there is no case really for Zimbabwe to answer.

We must be allowed to attend the CHOGM 2003 in Abuja because we are a full member of the Commonwealth," Mugabe was quoted by the ZIANA news agency as telling state media.

The suspension was extended in March until December. – Sapa-AFP.
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