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Mugabe to attend World Cup opener: Official

sports Updated: Jun 10, 2010 20:42 IST

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will be among around 20 African heads of state attending the opening match of the football World Cup, the South African government said today.

Mugabe is subject to a ban on travel to the European Union and United States but South Africa decided to invite him along with every other head of state from the continent for the start of the first World Cup on African soil.

"South Africa invited every African head of state to the opening to acknowledge our gratitude for their support and to underline the African nature of this event," Ayande Ntsaluba, the director general of the department of international relations and cooperation, told reporters in Pretoria.

"There may about three more who eventually respond to the invitations, but we have 20 confirmations at this point."

"Presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Mwai Kibaki of Kenya will attend as heads of state."

Both Mugabe and Kibaki preside over uneasy national unity governments with their traditional rivals serving as prime

Ntsaluba said that Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Kenyan counterpart Raila Odinga "have been invited as eminent Africans" but did not confirm their attendance.

The leaders of Madagascar, Guinea and Niger have not been invited after coming to power via a coup.

"The African Union has determined that leaders who gained power unconstitutionally should not be accorded the same treatment as heads of state," Ntsaluba said.

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir will also be absent after he turned down an invitation, closing speculation on whether he would be arrested in South Africa.

"He was invited to the World Cup opening ceremony but he indicated that he won't be coming," said Ntsaluba. Last month, Zuma said the Sudanese leader would be arrested under an international war crimes warrant if he accepted the invitation.

Beshir was indicted by the International Criminal Court in March 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the troubled Sudanese province of Darfur, the first sitting leader to be indicted by the global court.