Southern African leaders wrap up talks

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Southern African leaders holding a two day regional summit in the Angolan capital Luanda wrapped up their talks ahead of schedule Thursday, South Africa's foreign minister said.

The 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting was expected to address ongoing leadership battles in Zimbabwe and Madagascar, but Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane would only say the summit had gone "well".

"It went on exceptionally well. That's why we're finished already," she told AFP.

The closed-door talks had been scheduled to run until 12:30 pm (1130 GMT). A closing ceremony where leaders would read a communique reporting back on their discussions was scheduled for 2:50 pm.

The meeting came on the heels of crackdowns on anti-government protests, in Malawi which killed 19 people and in the continent's last absolute monarchy Swaziland, which added to the list of regional headaches.

The bloc is under pressure to show its commitment to democracy in the region at the summit in Luanda, but Wednesday's opening ceremony made no direct references to the spreading political turmoil.

The SADC has been criticised for dragging its feet in the Zimbabwe and Madagascar crises, which its mediators have so far failed to resolve.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai share a tense unity govenrment formed after an economic and political meltdown after flawed polls in 2008 but are deadlocked over when to hold new elections.

Mugabe is insisting on polls this year, with or without a new constitution, while Tsvangirai wants reforms first.

Mediators had also yet to find a solution to the impasse in Madagascar, which was suspended from the SADC in March 2009 after elected president Marc Ravalomanana was ousted by Andry Rajoelina, then mayor of the capital Antananarivo.

© 2011 AFP

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