African leaders press Mugabe, rival to work together

Tainted election adds to Zimbabwe's troubles

March 19, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

HARARE, Zimbabwe - The presidents of South Africa and Nigeria flew to Zimbabwe yesterday and urged President Robert G. Mugabe and his opposition party rival to work together to salvage this nation, which is troubled by food shortages, unemployment and simmering political tensions.

Mugabe, who has run Zimbabwe for 22 years, was inaugurated Sunday for a new term after an election tainted by irregularities.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, has refused to accept defeat, contending that the voting, March 9-11, was rigged.

The two visiting presidents, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, met separately with Mugabe and Tsvangirai and pressed them to unite.

The two presidents declined to discuss the details of the proposals they had made yesterday.

Western leaders have condemned the way the election was conducted.

Mugabe condoned political violence during his campaign and backed the illegal seizures by his supporters of some farms owned by whites. In the latest violence, a 55-year-old white farmer was shot dead yesterday on his tobacco farm, which had been illegally occupied by black squatters.

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