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Mugabe to talk to opposition after runoff results announced
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Robert Mugabe (Front), Zimbabwean president and candidate of the ruling ZANU-PF, arrives at a polling station in the suburb of Harare, June 27, 2008. Zimbabwe held the presidential run-off on Friday as scheduled despite opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai's withdrawal from the race. [Xinhua]

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe accepted on Saturday talking to MDC on the way forward for Zimbabwe after the results of the run-off poll are announced, according to New Ziana.

Mugabe said this should take place after the results of the run-off poll are announced, which the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said would be done soon.

The official sources, who attended the meeting between Mugabe and the African Union (AU) observer mission chief Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in Harare on Saturday, outlined the position of Mugabe at State House.

The sources said the mission followed the proposal that the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference made. The AU said the bishops proposed a "meeting of minds" to chart the way forward for Zimbabwe in their pastoral letter.

The sources quoted Mugabe as saying: "It is fine that there must be those contacts. But it must be a meeting of our minds and not a meeting of other people's minds through us."

On proposals from interested parties for a government of national unity, Mugabe said during his campaign that this could be done after the run-off.

Kabbah and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer mission leader Jose Marcos Barrica told journalists after separate meetings with Mugabe that they would soon announce their final verdicts on the run-off and three by-elections also held on Friday.

The two observer mission leaders said they were assessing whether the run-off followed electoral procedures. They stressed the need for peace to prevail to enable development in Zimbabwe.

Kabbah also said it was necessary for Africa to learn electoral systems in different countries. "We are trying to see how best we can, as Africans, understand each others' procedures. The parliaments of respective countries make election procedures we cannot insist on changing," he said.

He also said the AU observer mission would present a full report after the electoral process had been completed.

Barrica said Mugabe assured them that there would be stakeholder meetings to chart the way forward for Zimbabwe.The Angolan Minister of Youth and Sport described the SADC troika meeting that slammed the run-off poll as "not helpful".

Heads of State from Swaziland and Tanzania attended the meeting for the 14 member-SADC club. They passed a resolution saying the security situation in Zimbabwe was not conducive to hold peaceful polls.

"The two parties did not agree to postpone the run-off," said Barrica. "That is why the Swaziland resolution was not helpful."

Zimbabwe held the presidential run-off election on Friday as scheduled despite opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's withdrawal from the race.

Tsvangirai, who had been expected to pit against ruling ZANU-PF candidate and incumbent President Mugabe in the run-off, withdrew from the election on Sunday, citing various reasons, including political violence. Tsvangirai on Tuesday submitted a withdrawal letter to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, formally quitting from the race.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said the withdrawal was of no legal effect because it was filed too late.

Tsvangirai received 47.9 percent of the votes in the first round of election held on March 29, followed by Mugabe's 43.2 percent.

An outright winner needs to obtain an absolute majority of the votes, otherwise a run-off needs to be held, according to Zimbabwe's law.

(Xinhua News Agency June 29, 2008)

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