African leaders gather to discuss Zimbabwe crisis

Zimbabwe’s political turmoil is to top the agenda at an emergency meeting of southern Africa leaders in Tanzania.

Zimbabwe’s political turmoil is to top the agenda at an emergency meeting of southern Africa leaders in Tanzania.

The Dar Es Salaam meeting, called by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional economic bloc, will begin tomorrow, but several leaders were planning to hold informal talks this evening.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was expected to arrive later today.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete will chair the meeting.

Kikwete visited Zimbabwe earlier this month, after reports of a brutal police crackdown on the political opposition there drew renewed international attention to a long-running political and economic crisis.

Tanzania is one of three Southern African nations appointed by SADC to try to address the political crisis in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has come in for international condemnation for attacks on activists, including the opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was badly beaten after his arrest March 11 when police crushed a prayer meeting the government banned, calling it an illegal political protest.

Mr Mugabe blamed the opposition for the recent violence and dismissed claims his rule was approaching an end.

Zimbabwe’s ruling party leaders are scheduled this week to consider abandoning widely criticised proposals to delay presidential elections until 2010, the state media reported.

Mr Mugabe, who had pushed for a delay that would have lengthened his rule, appeared ready to concede on the issue.

The SADC meeting was also expected to address the violence in DR Congo.

In the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, more than 100 people died in fighting that broke out Thursday between army forces and fighters loyal to a failed presidential candidate. Security forces regained control of Kinshasa on Friday.

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