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CHOGM: Prime Minister leads the campaign to continue suspension of Zimbabwe.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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AM

 

Friday 5 December 2003

CHOGM: Prime Minister leads the campaign to continue suspension of Zimbabwe

 

DAVID HARDAKER: The Commonwealth Heads of Government, CHOGM, is taking p lace in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, with the suspension of Zimbabwe dominating early discussion. 

 

Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, has reaffirmed his position on the Mugabe Government, saying Zimbabwe should stay out. 

 

Sally Sara reports. 

 

SALLY SARA: The Prime Minister arrived to a ceremonial welcome. He was met by a 19-gun salute and a guard of honour. 

 

(sound of military call, band plays Australian National Anthem) 

 

But the real business is yet to start. Mr Howard has come to Nigeria with a clear message. He says Zimbabwe should remain suspended from the Commonwealth. 

 

JOHN HOWARD: If you apply the proper Commonwealth principles, then Zimbabwe cannot be readmitted to the Councils of the Commonwealth. 

 

SALLY SARA: The representatives of more than 50 Commonwealth countries have arrived in Nigeria, but President Robert Mugabe's absence is generating controversy. 

 

Zimbabwe was suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth in March last year after violence and intimidation during its presidential election. 

 

Some of its African neighbours, including Zambia and Malawi, say it's time for Zimbabwe to be allowed back in. But the Prime Minister is leading the campaign to continue the suspension. 

 

JOHN HOWARD: The fact that Robert Mugabe has not been invited here indicates to me that a sensible, proper approach is being adopted towards the situation and I'm very hopeful that the issue can be dealt with. 

 

SALLY SARA: Canada is working to come up with a compromise, but the details aren't clear. 

 

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon is trying to contain the dispute. He says there've been no signs of marked improvement in Zimbabwe.  

 

Mr McKinnon says the only way forward is for President Mugabe to hold discussions with the opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change). He's warning that the controversy shouldn't get out of hand. 

 

DON MCKINNON: Underpinning all this, many are still saying one, this issue must not be allowed to split the Commonwealth, and secondly we must not let it totally dominate CHOGM. 

 

SALLY SARA: But the debate runs along the delicate fault lines of the Commonwealth. It threatens to deepen divisions between the developed and the developing members.  

 

Even in his absence, President Mugabe is generating friction. While CHOGM is opening in Abuja, Mr Mugabe will be addressing his followers at a ruling party conference in Zimbabwe. 

 

Party officials have already made it clear that Mr Mugabe's possible retirement won't be on the agenda. 

 

This is Sally Sara in Abuja for AM .