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Mbeki resists German pressure on Mugabe

22 January 2004

PRETORIA – South African President Thabo Mbeki, speaking after meeting Thursday with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, said he would continue to reject “strong words” of criticism against the rule of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Following his meeting with Mbeki, Schroeder also spoke out in support of South Africa’s bid to host the 2010 World Cup.

“I believe that it is right and proper for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup,” said Schroeder, who is the country on a two-day state visit.

South Africa lost out narrowly to Germany in the race to hold the 2006 World Cup and faces competition from Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt to host the 2010 edition. World football’s governing body, FIFA, will announce the winning country in May.

Schroeder’s South African visit was aimed at focusing on economic cooperation and Zimbabwe. But Mbeki told journalists in Pretoria: “Strong words (of criticism) cannot be a goal.”

The Chancellor said he had expounded in “great detail” on the issue and European Union sanctions against Zimbabwe, adding: “The regime and the manner of practising politics are unacceptable.”

South Africa has had historically close ties with Zimbabwe. There have been calls in Europe and elsewhere for Mbeki to more aggressively use his influence with Mugabe to stop the country’s slide into economic and political chaos.

Mbeki said: “We are, of course, addressing the problem in the same manner. The Zimbabweans have many problems both politically and economically. We will have to see what we can do to change the situation.”

He also expressed hope that the government and opposition would be able to find a solution themselves during recently begun negotiations:

“We will not solve Zimbabwe’s problems and neither will Britain. Zimbabweans will reach a point where they ask for help and I hope the world will answer.”

Schroeder said: “I do not believe that Germany can play an active role in this conflict”, adding, that the German government was prepared to offer help, which other countries could also expect, once a solution had been found.

Schroeder and Mbeki said bilateral relations were good and that there were no problems. In reference to business relations, Schroeder said: “Nothing is so good that it cannot be improved upon”.

The chancellor is due to travel to Ghana on Friday as part of his first official African visit.


Subject: German news