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Mbeki set to meet Mugabe

South African President Thabo Mbeki to Zimbabwe to meet with his counterpart Robert Mugabe ahead of next week's presidential run-off poll.

world Updated: Jun 18, 2008 17:03 IST

South African President Thabo Mbeki will visit Zimbabwe on Wednesday to meet with his counterpart Robert Mugabe ahead of next week's presidential run-off poll there, Mbeki's spokesman said.



"Yes, President Mbeki is going to Zimbabwe," said presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga, confirming reports by Zimbabwe's state-run Herald that Mbeki was to fly into Bulawayo on Wednesday to meet with the veteran leader.



South African foreign ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said Mbeki would meet the Zimbabwean leader on Wednesday afternoon "in continuation of his SADC-mandated facilitation process."



The South African president, appointed to mediate Zimbabwe's crisis by the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), has often come under fire for his policy of quiet diplomacy towards the neighbouring country.



Violence has mounted in Zimbabwe ahead of the June 27 run-off election, in which opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai is seeking to topple Mugabe's 28-year rule.



Mbeki said last week that levels of violence in Zimbabwe were a cause for "serious concern and should be addressed with all urgency."



The president's reluctance to publicly criticise Mugabe has infuriated Tsvangirai, who has called for him to be stripped of his role as mediator.



According to the MDC, more than 60 of its supporters have been killed since the first round of the election at the end of March, in which Mugabe's ruling party lost control of parliament for the first time since independence. Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in the first round, but with an official vote total just short of an outright majority.