Robert Mugabe will face pressure from African leaders to agree a power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe today, after claiming victory in an internationally-condemned unopposed election.
A day after being sworn in as his country’s president, he will attend an African Union summit in Egypt which world leaders hope will see him forced to back down.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged “substantial” international help rebuilding the country if democracy was restored – urging the continent’s other leaders to increase the pressure.
Mr Mugabe announced that “serious” talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change could happen “sooner or later” – amid growing calls for a military peacekeeping intervention.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who withdrew from the run-off in protest at a brutal campaign against his supporters, said the ruling Zanu-PF party recognised it had reached a “dead end”.
In an interview with the BBC, he said Mr Mugabe should “step back into (being) a statesman like Mandela...into the father of the nation”.
Mr Brown, speaking before the lavish inauguration ceremony, said: “I think what we are now looking for is that combination of African countries in the African Union, working I hope with the United Nations, sending envoys to Zimbabwe to see what progress can be made, to see what the way forward is.
“And let me also say that we and a group of countries are working together and prepared to contribute substantially financially to the reconstruction of Zimbabwe.
“Countries round the world will do so as long as it is restored as a democracy.”
African observers in Zimbabwe called for a re-run, saying the election was not free and fair and supporters of Mugabe had beaten people who couldn’t prove they voted.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said there was “a very good argument” for sending in an international force “to restore peace”.